Research has shown that owning a dog offers many benefits for our physical, mental, and emotional health.
Splendido, an all-inclusive community for those 55 and better in Tucson, is a pet-friendly community where residents and their dogs can be seen taking daily walks, visiting with each other, and occasionally riding in golf carts.
Kenneth Outwater, 81, and his wife Daria moved into Splendido two years ago, along with their 160-pound American mastiff Rebekah. “Rebekah was interviewed and approved before we were!” says Kenneth.
Dogs Brighten Your Mood
Humans are hard-wired for connection, and research has proven that simply petting a dog can increase oxytocin levels, a hormone that lowers blood pressure, helps reduce fear and anxiety, and improves alertness. Especially when major life events hit, such as illness or the death of a loved one, pets offer therapeutic affection and a shared bond that can nurture their owners.
Frances Richardson, owner of a 12-year-old miniature dachshund named Liesl, says, “Having a dog lightens the sadness that a person might have. They can bring comfort—I see her sweet little face, which can be quite expressive. She’s great company, and quite a good roommate.”
Splendido residents Donna and Sloane Barker have experienced the comfort of a dog as well. When Sloane developed medical issues that kept them from traveling, they decided to get a dog. Enter Coco, a Yorkie-poo who is just a year and a half old. “The change in our life has been so rewarding,” says Donna. “It’s so nice to have this puppy that is so loving, so attentive to [my husband], and so responsive. She’s a great addition to our lives.”
Dogs Keep You Engaged
Studies have shown that people exhibit improved alertness when caring for a pet. Pets help prevent or reduce absent-mindedness by providing a sense of time and helping to maintain a rhythm to the day.
“It keeps you a little more sensitive,” says Kenneth. “As you learn to read the dog, you can apply that to other areas in your life.” Regarding Rebekah in particular, he says, “A dog like this provides focus, and forces you out of yourself, so your focus turns outward instead of inward. I think that’s a good thing at this age.”
Dogs Keep You Active
Perhaps most importantly, walking a dog ensures regular physical activity—a key component in staying healthy and independent, boosting mood, and even benefiting the brain. It can also keep you social, as you meet others along your route.
“I have a golf cart, and I motor us to ‘the south 40’ to walk [Rebekah] about a mile in the morning,” says Kenneth. “I walk with another resident who has two dogs. We’ll do a circle around the Splendido grounds in the afternoon, and then I run her in the evening with the golf cart. Having a dog sets the routine.”
Donna agrees, saying, “We take a brisk walk twice a day. It’s terrific for both of us. The main reason is so that I get a chance to walk, but it also helps to burn a little bit of Coco’s energy.” She adds, “The whole community is very dog-friendly. Psychologically, it’s great to have a dog here—for my husband and me, but also for the residents she meets. I can see their faces brighten when they see her coming.”
Just seeing a peppy dog trotting along with its owner can bring a smile—but living with that dog confers immeasurable benefits.