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

The kids are out of the house and now you need a new face to look at. Perhaps your older mom and dad need something to keep them active. Having the right dog can be helpful, fun and good for your health and well-being.

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The Right Dog: Outstanding Addition for 50+ Empty Nester or Older Adults
17 Min Read November 16th, 2017 Updated:January 31st, 2023

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

Companionship and positive feelings become more important for empty nesters and older adults as some will feel lonely as the rest of the family deals with their busy lives. This is especially true if they have lost their partner or close friend.

Dogs are a Great Companion

For several reasons, empty nesters and older adults can benefit from having a dog. Dogs can provide companionship, comfort, and security for those living alone. Couples who have become empty nesters will benefit from having activity in the home. 

Having a dog can be an excellent way for empty nesters and older adults to get out and get active. The companionship and a sense of purpose that a dog can bring can counteract feelings of loneliness and isolation that sometimes strike when adult children move away or older adults become unable to keep up with activities they used to enjoy. Dogs can provide much-needed exercise, mental stimulation, and social contact. 

Empty nesters and older adults with a dog can also enjoy benefits to their overall health. Petting a dog has been found to reduce stress by increasing serotonin and oxytocin levels, while still getting exercise with daily walks. Also, owning a pet has been linked to lower risks of heart disease, strokes, anxiety, and depression. 

Dogs can provide unconditional love to empty nesters and older adults. This unconditional love, loyalty, security, and friendship can be a fantastic way to fill the void of an empty nester or provide extra comfort later in life. 

Plus, a dog can help an older adult feel safe and provide an extra set of eyes and ears in the home. 

Owning a pet is a great way to focus on something outside one's own life and give back to someone who needs it. A dog can provide an empty nester or older adult with an added sense of purpose. Dogs will look to them for love, attention, and protection, giving their owners a sense of responsibility and motivation. 

Having a dog can help empty nesters or older adults be more socially connected and interactive. Walking your dog can be a great way to get outside, meet new people, and stay connected to your neighbors and community. Plus, pet owners tend to interact more with others than those without pets, which can be beneficial for their mental and social health. Paragraph 

Having a dog will help the owner stay mentally active and sharp. Caring for a pet involves developing routines, providing stimulation and mental challenges, and encouraging problem-solving. This can be an excellent way to keep the mind active and engaged. 

Dogs can be beneficial 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.

Keeping Active

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. The dog can help the person remain active and healthy for those with better health.

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, making 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 older people because of their loving temperaments and their ability to easily bond with their owners, 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 there are no worries if you have limited ability to get around. 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, they also enjoy a good playtime session. 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, making them great companion dogs, 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. Like many other companion dog breeds, the French Bulldog requires close contact with humans. They have fairly minimal exercise needs but require at least daily short walks.


This breed is extremely intelligent and loyal. A Havanese is exceptionally easy to train due to its habitual nature, but it 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 highly intelligent, energetic, and friendly breeds. 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

Dogs can be huge assets for older people who need long-term care and help with normal living activities. 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 orders. 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 a facility if necessary. The insurance company pays for these home care providers that 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 will 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.

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About the Author

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

LTC News Contributor James Kelly

James Kelly

Contributor since August 21st, 2017

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. 

How will you and your family address the costs and burdens of aging? For many families, affordable Long-Term Care Insurance provides guaranteed tax-free resources to pay for quality care in your desired setting, including care at home.

However, don't delay until your health declines since LTC Insurance is medically underwritten. You don't have to have perfect health, but you must meet underwriting guidelines which vary depending on the insurance company.

What is Underwriting? How Does Current Health Impact the Ability to Obtain Long-Term Care Insurance?

Most people obtain coverage in their 50s. Safeguard your #401(k) and other assets and reduce the stress and anxiety that is otherwise placed on your family by making LTC Insurance part of your retirement plan.

Specialists Can Be Helping in Finding Affordable Coverage

Long-Term Care Insurance can be very affordable, but premiums vary dramatically depending on the insurance company.

How Much Does Long-Term Care Insurance Cost?

Be sure to seek the help of a qualified Long-Term Care Insurance specialist. A true specialist works with all the top companies and has comprehensive experience in all aspects of planning, including underwriting, policy design, and claims.

A specialist will match your age, health, and family history with the right insurance company so you can get accurate quotes from all the top companies. This gives you the ability to save money and have confidence that you have the right options without spending more than you.

LTC NEWS Offers Tremendous Resources

LTC NEWS provides news, advice, and resources to help seniors, their families, and caregivers better understand long-term health care planning. LTC NEWS also provides ratings of insurance companies and reviews of different long-term care insurance policies. This can help you decide which policy is best for you and your loved ones. All these resources can help you in your research as you prepare for your future retirement and plan for the costs and burdens of aging and declining health.

Parent's Health Declining? Do They Need Care Now?

Get quality care for your parent or parents if they require it. LTC NEWS can assist. We've put together a few comprehensive guides to help you along the way.

Find help locating quality caregivers or long-term care facilities and get recommendations for a proper care plan, whether a person has a policy. - Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim.

Make sure your loved one uses their Long-Term Care Insurance if they are fortunate enough to have it. Families sometimes postpone taking advantage of the benefits thinking family members can provide care, saving the benefits for later when it is deemed "more necessary."

Delaying the use of available Long-Term Care Insurance benefits is not a good idea. The policy provides you with access to quality care when someone needs it. It also gives loved one's time to family instead of caregivers.

These four guides can be very helpful as you try to find appropriate long-term care services for a loved one:

Today's Reverse Mortgages Can Benefit Older Families

Some people have a large portion of their savings in their homes. With the help of reverse mortgages, you can find ways to pay for quality in-home care, pay for LTC Insurance, and even assist with cash flow during retirement.

Yes, today's reverse mortgages may be the perfect way to pay for a Long-Term Care Insurance policy or even cover the cost of in-home care if you or a loved one is currently in need.

Asking an expert with your questions will help you learn more. Mike Banner, a columnist for LTC NEWS and the host of the television program "62 Who Knew," will respond to your inquiries about long-term care, reverse mortgages, aging, and health.

- Just "Ask Mike." - Reverse Mortgages | LTC News.

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