Maybe your children have graduated 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 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 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 a number of 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.

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 watch dogs which is 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 while energetic, aren't bouncing off the walls. 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.

Pomeranian

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 more calm 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 watch dog as well. Poms are also an easy breed to train thanks to their people-pleasing attitude and intelligence. They make a great breed for seniors because of their loving temperaments and the bond that they create with their owners makes them a great therapy dog as well.

Greyhound

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.

Maltese

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 play time. 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.

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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.

Havanese

This breed is extremely intelligent and loyal. A Havanese is especially 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 do enjoy a brisk walk with their favorite human and they 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 in order to receive attention and will happily reciprocate the affection that they receive.

Poodle

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 sociable 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 are frequently brushed and bathed to keep them looking their best; this not only removes hair and dander, but also 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 play time exercise. They love to be pet 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.

For older people who need long-term care and help with normal living activities dogs can be a huge asset. 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 a person’s 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.

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 are at home. These homecare providers paid for by the insurance company can also provide basic homemaker services including feeding your pet. Some policies provide a cash benefit where you could also pay to have your dog taken care if as well.

Long-Term Care Insurance is Easy and Affordable Asset Protection. It also reduces the stress and burdens that are placed on your family. The best time to have a policy in place is before you retire so you can take advantage of low premiums and good health discounts which you may qualify for.