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10 Reasons to Get a Dog When You’re Over 50

From health benefits to sheer huggability, canine companions make sense

  • En español | If your nest is empty — by circumstance or by choice — think about getting a dog. Known for their devotion and happy dances, dogs can take a big bite out of isolation. Just hanging out with a furry friend, studies show, has a revitalizing effect. Here, 10 benefits of later-life dog ownership. — Courtesy of Allan Fallow

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  • Dogs Keep You Fit

    Adopt a dog and ditch that pricey personal trainer. A study in The Journal of Physical Activity and Health found that dog owners walk approximately one hour longer per day than those without a fetching friend in their lives. — Getty Images

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  • They Make You Healthier

    Studies show that dog-owning seniors have lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol than their petless peers. Having a dog also reduces the risk of heart attack — and boosts your chances of long-term survival if you have one.   — Getty Images

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  • Dogs Are Social Mediums

    A natural-born icebreaker, your dog will introduce you to everyone from next-door neighbors to perfect strangers. It’s impossible to pass a dog without making a “pat stop,” so head for the park — Bowser will take it from there.   — Getty Images

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  • They Organize Your Day

    A dog may keep you sane, showered and solvent. Studies show that dog owners exhibit higher degrees of self-discipline than those without. Makes sense: Dogs, like humans, thrive on structure; they need to be fed, walked and nurtured at regular intervals.   — Getty Images

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  • Dogs Get You

    MRI scanners showed that the canine brain reacts to voices and sounds, such as crying or laughter, in the same way the human brain does. Dogs are also the only nonhuman animals who scan the left side of a face — the process whereby people, too, “read” emotions.   — Getty Images

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  • They Boost Quality of Life

    For many older Americans, a dog means the difference between a life lived and a life merely endured. Dogs help you stay safe and independent: They provide ears for the deaf, eyes for the blind and an early warning system at the approach of dangers (both real and imagined, of course!).   — Getty Images

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  • They Can Be an Old Friend

    No need for housebreaking and training when you adopt an older pooch. Studies show you can teach an old dog new tricks — or simply take it for long, calm walks. For tips on bringing a “senior dog” into your home, check out susiesseniordogs.com. — Bill Bachman / Alamy

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  • They Help You Volunteer

    When is a dog like a grandchild? When you can play with it during the day and then head home! Shelters and rescue organizations are desperate for volunteer help. And you’ll get a boost from that tail-wagging mood elevator. — ZUMA Press, Inc / Alamy

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  • Dogs Make You a Better Person

    Consider this: Ozzy Osbourne, the bat-chomping rocker not known as an SPCA poster child, once wrestled a coyote to the ground to pull his pet Pomeranian, Pipi, from its jaws. As the “bumper snicker” exhorts us, “Be the person your dog thinks you are.” — Getty Images

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  • They Let You Be a Hero

    The Humane Society estimates that 6 to 8 million dogs and cats wind up in animal shelters every year. The majority would make loyal and loving companions, yet at least half of that number are euthanized annually. Visit a local shelter; maybe some buddy needs you. — Getty Images

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