The Right Dog: Outstanding Addition for 50+ Empty Nester or Older

Read Time: 8:40
Published: Nov 17th, 2017
The Right Dog for Empty Nesters
Article Updated:August 3rd, 2020

Maybe your children have graduated from college and perhaps left home, so now you are an empty nester. Perhaps your older mom and dad need some companionship. In either case, the right dog can provide you with love and affection, companionship, good mental health, and even exercise.

For older adults, this becomes even more important as some people will start to feel lonely as the rest of the family deals with their own busy lives. This is especially true if they have lost their partner or close friend.

Dogs are a Great Companion

Dogs can be a great companion for seniors as they give unconditional love and support and they give them something to do. Dogs can be especially helpful for seniors with dementia. Studies have found that dogs slow the process by which seniors with dementia lose their memory because they keep them on a schedule and provide comfort when their owner is having a bad day or is distressed. This may limit the amount of supervision and other Long-Term Care services they may require.

These canine companions are great for several reasons; one of the biggest being the amount of exercise people get when they own a dog. Not only do they play with them around the house, but dogs also need to be walked, which is a great way to stay active.

Dr. Michelle Radwanski, a well-known veterinarian at Argonne Animal Hospital in Lemont, Illinois, encourages a family to consider the ability to take care of the dog depending on their limitations. She says older people with limitations can have difficulty providing the right care for a pet. For those with better health, the dog can help the person remain active and healthy.

These are some recommended dog breeds for those over 50; they can serve as therapy dogs, playmates, or "children." They also can just be fun.

Yorkshire Terrier

This small breed only gets to be about seven pounds and can live for thirteen to sixteen years. Yorkies are a part of the toy breed, and they make a great companion dog. This breed is entirely aware of their adorable appearance, but they also return the affection that they receive. Yorkies are a very active breed, and they tend to be quite curious, although they can become overprotective of their owner. This may not always be considered a bad thing, though. Thanks to their overprotective nature and notorious barking, they also make fantastic watchdogs which are ideal for seniors who are losing their hearing.

Labrador Retriever

If you like larger dogs, this may be the one. Labradors are athletic, playful, and the most popular breed of dog by registered ownership in the US and Canada. They're friendly, respond well to training, and aren't bouncing off the walls even though they are energetic. Labs are frequently trained to aid people who are blind and people with autism, act as therapy dogs, and perform screening and detection work for law enforcement and other official agencies. Sometimes you can adopt a retired Lab when their work in law enforcement is done.


This toy breed had an average lifespan of about twelve to sixteen years, and they usually grow to be no more than six or seven pounds. They have a luxurious coat and love to receive affection. They are a decently active breed that loves to play when they are puppies, but they grow calmer and docile in their older age. Pomeranians are extremely friendly and social dogs who crave their owner's presence. They're also very alert and can be a bit yappy, which makes them an excellent watchdog. Poms are also an easy breed to train thanks to their people-pleasing attitude and intelligence. They make a great breed for those who are older because of their loving temperaments and their ability to bond with their owners easily, which also makes them a great therapy dog.


Though the greyhound has a reputation for being a fast runner -- and he is -- when he's off, he's a true couch potato and a great "pal." It is a gentle and intelligent breed that can be very low key unless you plan on entering the dog in races. Contrary to popular belief, adult Greyhounds do not need extended periods of daily exercise, so if you have limited ability to get around, there are no worries. Greyhounds are quiet, gentle, and loyal to owners. They are very loving creatures, and they enjoy the company of their humans and other dogs.


Being another toy breed, a Maltese is usually around eight pounds, on average. They have a lifespan of about twelve to fifteen years and are extremely cuddly for all the years of their lives. Although they do have a high energy level, so they also enjoy a good session of playtime. This breed is known for their affection level, and they love to be spoiled. Thanks to their small size, this breed thrives in small homes, which makes them great for a senior who has downsized to an apartment or townhome. They form an intense bond with their owner, which makes them a great companion dog, but they are also known to suffer from separation anxiety.

French Bulldog

Frenchies are very sweet and make excellent companions. Their calm nature makes them an excellent choice for apartment dwellers, as do their sensible attitude towards barking. The French Bulldog, like many other companion dog breeds, requires close contact with humans. They have fairly minimal exercise needs but do require at least daily short walks.


This breed is extremely intelligent and loyal. A Havanese is exceptionally easy to train due to their habitual nature, but they can be difficult to house train as puppies. A Havanese tends to form an intense bond with just one owner, which makes them great for a senior who has lost their partner. This breed doesn't do well with being left alone for extended periods of time. Havaneses don't have an exceedingly high energy level, but they enjoy a brisk walk with their favorite human and are happy to be finished when you are. They are highly friendly, although they come off as shy when they first meet someone new. Havaneses are famous for showing off to receive attention and happily reciprocate the affection they receive.


These are very personable dogs who are easy to train and have a lively sense of humor. They are also relatively clean, low-shedding dogs who are easy to maintain as long as you keep regular grooming appointments. Poodles are known as a highly intelligent, energetic, and friendly breed. They require both physical and intellectual activities. Poodles are often cited as a hypoallergenic dog breed. Their individual hair follicles have an active growth period that is longer than that of many other breeds of dogs; combined with the tightly curled coat, which slows the loss of dander and dead hair by trapping it in the curls, an individual poodle may release less dander and hair into the environment. In addition, most poodles should be frequently brushed and bathed to keep them looking their best; this removes hair and dander and controls the other potent allergen, saliva.

Cairn Terrier

A Cairn Terrier usually weighs around ten to sixteen pounds and will only grow to be about a foot tall. They have a shaggy outer coat with an incredibly soft undercoat and can come in a variety of colors. Their average lifespan is between twelve and seventeen years; Cairns are an active breed, but this can be satisfied with a daily walk as they will be mostly content with their playtime exercise. They love to be petted and given affection and will do just about anything to please you.

Many experts suggest adopting a "shelter dog." Generally, you will have many to choose from and usually can tell if you will "click" with the dog's personality.

Dogs for the Elderly and Those Who Need Long-Term Care Services

For older people who need long-term care and help with normal living activities, dogs can be huge assets. These are normally referred to as Therapy Dogs. There are three types of Therapy Dogs. "Facility Therapy Dogs" and "Animal Assisted Therapy Dogs" assist physical and occupational therapists in meeting goals important to their recovery. The most common Therapy Dogs are "Therapeutic Visitation Dogs." These dogs are household pets whose owners take time to visit hospitals, nursing homes, detention facilities, and rehabilitation facilities. 

Therapeutic Visitation Dogs help people who are away from home due to mental or physical illness or court order. These people miss their pets, and a visit from a visitation dog can brighten their day and lift their spirits. For some, it helps motivate them in their therapy or treatment, reminding them of their own pets waiting for them at home.

Pets Won't Solve Your Future Long-Term Care Problem

Having a dog is not a Long-Term Care plan in itself. As you age and need help yourself, you may no longer be able to care for your dog or other pet yourself. This is why having an advance plan to address the financial costs and burdens of aging is key to providing you and your family peace-of-mind and financial security. 

Long-Term Care Insurance will pay for your choice of quality care at home, or if necessary, a facility. These home care providers paid for by the insurance company can also provide basic homemaker services, including feeding your pet. Some policies offer a cash benefit where you could also pay to have your dog taken care of as well.

Some assisted living facilities allow residents to have pets, including dogs and cats. Be sure to ask if you or a loved one requires facility care.

Long-Term Care Insurance is Easy and Affordable Asset Protection. It also reduces the stress and burdens that are otherwise placed on your family. The best time to get a policy in place is before you retire to take advantage of low premiums and good health discounts you may qualify for. Experts suggest you start your research in your 40s or 50s when you also could be eligible for preferred health discounts.

Learn more about long-term health care planning by using the resources on LTC NEWS by clicking here.

The right dog will be a great addition to your family as you get past age 50.

About the Author

An LTC News author focusing on long-term care and aging.

Editor's Note

Dogs and other pets can be a great part of a successful future retirement. They will not, however, provide your care. They often will need care that you might not be able to provide the pet. This means you need a solution to address the expensive costs and the family burdens associated with longevity.

The resources on LTC NEWS will help you prepare your family and finances for the financial costs and burdens that come with longevity. As you prepare for your future retirement, better consider the consequences long-term care will have on you and your loved ones. 

Remember, long-term care is both a cash flow problem and a family problem. The right solution will safeguard savings and income and ease the stress and burden otherwise placed on your family. 

Find the current and future cost of long-term care services by using the LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator and find both the current and future cost of care services where you live. Click here and see the financial impact. 

Several Types of Long-Term Care Insurance Plans Exist

No matter if you want a traditional plan with a small premium, a partnership plan with additional dollar-for-dollar asset protection, a hybrid plan with a death benefit, or just a small short-duration plan, a Long-Term Care Specialist can help you find the best coverage based on your age and health.

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Your best specialist might not be local. That is ok since usually neither is the insurance company. Since these policies are custom designed based on your needs, age, health and other considerations, a specialist will find you what is best for you at the lowest premium. Premiums can vary over 100% between companies for the exact same coverage. This is why you should seek the help of a qualified Long-Term Care Insurance specialist. Find a specialist by clicking here.

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LTC News Contributor James Kelly
James Kelly

Contributor Since
August 21st, 2017

LTC News author focusing on long-term care and aging.

About the Author

LTC News author focusing on long-term care and aging.

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