Retire in the company of man’s best friend – and others
Friendships are likely to prove even more important and meaningful in older age than the relationships you have with family members. It seems that friendships are a major cornerstone of staying healthy and happy as we age, according to a report published in the Daily Mail newspaper on the 7th of June 2017.
And what more reliable and tested a relationship than that between an individual and man’s best friend – a dog in particular, but any pet in general.
The importance of friendships
As you stand on the threshold of retirement, says the research cited by the Daily Mail, friendships help ward off the ever-present risk of loneliness and chronic ill health.
In a survey of more than a quarter of a million individuals, the study found that relationships with friends and family members both contribute to physical and mental wellbeing. But the greater support and overall contribution to general health and happiness seemed to come from friends, rather than family, across the whole of a lifetime.
The findings appear to lend weight to the well-known saying that you can pick your friends, but you can’t choose your family members.
Choosing your friends
However carefully you pick them, though, there are always time when the relationship comes under stress or strain and even the best of friends may let you down – unless that friend is a pet.
It’s not for nothing that many a canine companion is described as a faithful friend. Through thick and thin, pets tend to stand by their owners – and achieve some truly remarkable feats of endurance and courage in the process.
The many and remarkable achievements of some pets have gone so unnoticed that some animal-lovers have campaigned for lasting memorials in their name – with the Guardian newspaper, on the 23rd of October 2017, listing a number of contenders in whose memory statues might be raised.
The company of a pet
The vast majority of pets, of course, live their lives and give their all of devoted and faithful service far away from the glare of media attention and headlines.
These are the ones who give their love and affection in a far more unassuming way, on a day to day basis, that may go almost unnoticed by everyone but their owner and close friend.
What, then, are some of the more general qualities that a pet may bring into your life?
- a pet brings companionship – according to a survey conducted by Gransnet, the social networking site for older people - nearly three-quarters of the elderly interviewed said they were lonely some or all of the time. A staggering 93% said that they might feel lonely even though they had a partner or members of their family;
- if you live alone or have no friends or family you keep in regular contact with, a pet may bring much-needed companionship – and just walking a dog is one of the best ways of making new friends with like-minded owners.
- the charity Age UK quotes a study by the University of Cambridge suggesting that ownership of a dog, cat or some other pet may improve a person’s health in less than a month, reducing minor illnesses such as coughs, colds and headaches;
- other studies have shown that pet ownership helps to reduce both blood pressure and cholesterol levels, so minimising the chances of heart attacks – whilst those who have already had a heart attack may also improve their prospects of survival;
- by reducing loneliness and the accompanying sense of isolation, owning a pet has also been shown to reduce levels of depression;
- your dog, cat or any other pet is not going to be worrying about tomorrow, so you may also learn to share in that joy of living in the here and now – worrying less about the future, not dwelling so much on your own physical problems and growing less caught up in your own sense of aging or loss;
Sense of purpose
- in many ways, improvements to health and wellbeing are also likely to be associated with the renewed sense of purpose which owning and caring for a pet may bring;
- when you are responsible for another living being, you need to establish routines designed to meet the needs of your pet, instilling a greater sense of purpose, personal wellbeing and more reasons for enjoying your own life;
- to do that, you are also planning for a future on which your pet also depends – there may be the unexpected expense of vets bills to meet and plans to make for the care of the animal if your own circumstances should change;
- you don’t need a specifically-bred guard dog to share some of the greater sense of security that living with a pet may bring;
- animals generally have a much more acute sense of smell and hearing, which may be put to use by alerting you to anything out of the ordinary that may be happening around you – your pet may feel it first, allowing you to take any necessary action.
Whether you choose a retirement in the company of man’s best friend – or, indeed, any other pet – your life may be happier, less stressful, healthier and more enjoyable with such a companion by your side.