Vitamin D: Seniors Enjoy Health Benefits From Dog Ownership

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Seniors and dogs make sense for a host of reasons, not the least of which is the wonderful comfort and camaraderie a loving dog seems purpose-made to give. But companionship is only one reason why older people should head to their local shelters and rescue groups to find a new best friend.

A recent study by the University of Missouri (and published in The Gerontologist) says that older people who form strong bonds with their dogs tend to exercise longer and more often.

Among the findings, dog walking was linked to lower body mass indexes and fewer doctor visits, older dog owners were found to be less burdened by physical limitations during their daily living activities — as well as more social, as dogs offer a means to meet other dog owners.

Rebecca Johnson, the study’s senior author and a professor at the university, told the medical journal that the study’s results could provide the basis for medical professionals to recommend pet ownership for older adults and that this idea could be translated into reduced health care expenditures for the aging population.

Retirement communities that encourage pet-friendly policies, she noted, walking trails and exercise areas for example, could help boost resident health.

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