Sponsored Post by Bupa.
One of the things I’ve noticed about growing older is that it’s increasingly easy to become hermit-like.
Sometimes this is quite appealing, given that I’m an introvert by nature, but on the other hand I know that too much hermit-like status is definitely not good for my health.
You know: Act, Belong, Commit and all that? It’s much healthier to stay in the world rather than become a recluse because otherwise we are crooking our little finger and welcoming in loneliness, we’re bidding goodbye to routine and responsibility, we’ll most likely avoid strenuous exercise, and it’s all too easy to retreat into ourselves and stop investing in life.
Hmm, not a very healthy way to age is it?
Trouble is as we grow older the touch points for connectivity become less. There’s no more standing at the school gate having a chat with whoever’s there for instance. Perhaps because of various aches and pains we start to pull back from sporting activities. Perhaps (heaven forbid) our parents and older friends start passing away and we begin to feel sad and lonely.
In short, we have to make more of an effort than ever before to remain social and involved with the rough and tumble of life.
What to do?
One of the best things you can do I reckon is to beg, borrow or buy a dog.
As a serial dog owner, but sadly without one right now, I can vouch for a number of benefits that go with owning a pooch, and dog ownership is big on my list for the near future to prevent me becoming a stout, bad tempered old hermit with a broomstick.
Your daily dozen
One of the best things about dog ownership is increased exercise, because even little dogs need and enjoy a walk around the block.
So that’s going to mean less lazing on a couch or tucked up in bed with a box of chocolates reading the Sunday papers, and entail more getting out and pounding the streets or striding out on an early morning jaunt to the park. It’s not easy to say no to a dog who’s keen to get out of the house, so actually there’s a fair amount of pressure to take some daily exercise on a regular basis.
Our Charlie used to like kayaking on the river, see above! It was always more fun going out with him and watching him jump off for a swim too.
You’ll never be lonely
Dogs aren’t aloof and independent like cats. They’re in your face, demanding your attention and they become constant companions with their own personalities which will often, I reckon, after a while begin to reflect your own, especially if you spend a lot of time training them and talking to them.
Mini me with a bark 😉
Dogs add routine and responsibility
Okay, so I think one of the nice things about getting older is that we are able to kiss strict routines goodbye. The sort of killing routines associated with long working hours and a busy family life where it’s hard to find time to breathe.
However, in the total absence of routine it’s sometimes tricky to find touch points to keep days, weeks and even months in check. If you have a dog you have to walk them, feed them, train them, and care for them. So you immediately have manageable amounts of routine and responsibility built into your days.
Our son’s dog Rhino below is such a character, and has been trained really well, but I’m not sure how proficient he is yet at playing guitar 😉
Owning a dog gives you something else other than yourself and your own concerns to worry about. This might seem counter-intuitive, but having a dog takes you beyond yourself and your own worries. That smiling face, the unconditional love they give, the wagging tail every time you walk in the front door, the constant companionship – it’s a given that they are small furry stress-busters.
Dogs can reduce social isolation
Owning a dog helps you make new friends and can introduce you to new interests. For instance, in the park or on the beach … other dog owners will most likely say ‘Hello’, and possibly start up a conversation. People will come up to you and pat your dog (especially if it’s cute). You might have to say ‘Sorry’ to people when Buster jumps up at them or bounds onto their beach towel – whatever way, you will have to connect with other people.
On a more social level you might decide to go dog walking with others, or enter your pooch into dog shows and doggie competitions at charity events. You will definitely have to go and converse with your local vet at some stages in your dog’s life. You could perhaps do good and arrange to take your (friendly) dog into old people’s homes or hospitals (after talking with the correct people) and so help others feel more cheerful.
The sad truth is that very often with age comes vulnerability. Now good on you if you’re into Martial Arts or if you have an Arnold Schwarzenneger type minder, but if you don’t, a dog could very well provide you with an extra level of protection both when you’re out for your daily exercise or when you’re relaxing at home.
Even small dogs can have a big bark, and a would-be intruder may think twice about breaking and entering even if your ankle biter is a Jack Russell rather than a Pittbull terrier.
Staying useful and being needed
One of the things my Mum said to me quite a few years ago when I thought I was being a pest in asking her to do something for me was: “No, I don’t mind at all. It’s so lovely to still be needed.”
And I get that now that my own children have left home. As we get older we’re needed less and less by our families and by society at large.
Having to take care of a dog makes you useful and of value, because Rover cannot take care of himself.
Saying Yes to Life
I think it’s easy to get depressed as we get older. You know, one by one things we took for granted when we were younger seem to get taken away from us, and being over 50 is so different to being 30-something when we were so busy building our lives, families and careers – so it’s important to invest in life in other ways.
Having a dog means that you are committing to responsible ownership, looking after another living being for a number of years and it could be a very positive influence in keeping you happy.
So, if anyone’s listening … if anyone cares … make mine a cocker spaniel please!
This post was sponsored by Bupa. You can find out more about their #CaringForOurGreats initiative by visiting The Blue Room
If you’d like to win a copy of Matt Moran’s latest cook book Matt’s Kitchen Garden, which features recipes that are Chiswick style with a focus on seasonality and fresh Australian produce then all you have to do is write a comment below, and tell me why you think owning a dog is good for you. Closing date is 31st November 2015. Entry is open to people with an Australian address. For full conditions of entry please check out the Giveaway Conditions
Update: 8 December 2015. This giveaway is now closed and Suzanne has been selected as the winner. Should she not respond within 7 days, another winner will be chosen.