How a Canine Companion Could Help You Live Longer

Article provided by Acorn Stairlifts

We always strive to learn the secrets to living longer. One of the secrets appears to be the companionship of man’s best friend.

A study conducted in Sweden has recognized a link between owning a dog and reduced risk of early death. The study involved 3.4 million Swedes aged 40 – 80 found there was a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease or other conditions linked to early death among those people who owned a dog.

The large study was made possible to be carried out in Sweden for two mains reasons. First, anyone who owned a dog must register it officially and, second, all visits to the hospital and treatments are accurately recorded. This made is possible to compare national databased for dog ownership with those for hospital visits covering the periods between 2001 – 2012.

Researchers found a marked reduction in the number of early deaths among dog owning households in their study, especially from cardiovascular disease (CVD), which is the leading cause of death worldwide. In Addition, they found the risk of early death from cardiovascular disease and other causes was reduced by up to a third among people who lived alone if they owned a dog.

Details found the a Swedish databased even enabled them to pinpoint specific types of dog which seemed to have a more beneficial effect. Owners of breeds that traditionally hunt, such as terriers, retrievers and scene hound, appeared to have the lowest risk of early deaths.

It would be possible to duplicate the study in the USA, because it is not compulsory to register dog ownership here, but there is nothing to suggest that its conclusions would not be replicated. The conclusion is that dog owners are more active, because they have to take their pets on walks at least once a day, some breeds can even require more than once a day. So, there are several well-proven health benefits of remaining active and taking regular exercise. Even the evidence about different breeds seems to back this up, as hunting breeds require more walks because they are more energetic than other types of dogs, such as lapdogs.

People may already be active and choosing to own a dog, rather than the dog forcing them to become active, but in either case there is a link between dog ownership and regular physical activity

However, there might be more to the health benefits of dog ownership than physical activity alone. The Swedish study found particularly pronounced benefits for single people and since they are unlikely to all be exercising more than dog owners in multiple households, there must be something else going on. The researchers speculated that the companionship of owning a dog could alleviate psychological stress factors for single people, such as social isolation, depression and loneliness.

All these factors have previously been linked to increased risk of early death from CVD and other causes. It isn’t just that the dog is providing companionship in the home; it also means the dog owner is likely to get out and about more, meeting and interacting with other people, especially other dog walkers. There is also evidence that owning a dog helps people to recover and rehabilitate more quickly following an accident or medical procedure.

There could also be another link between dog ownership and more robust health, operating at a microscopic level. Dog owners have been found to have a different “microbiome” to non-dog owners, the “microbiome” being the collection of microscopic species which live in a person’s gut. This is because the dust and household dirt in a dog owner’s home environment is influenced by the dog, and low-level exposure to these additional bacteria can help a dog owner’s immune system become generally more resistant to infection and disease.

Senior author of the Swedish study, Tove Fall, said while it did demonstrate a link between dog ownership and reduced risk of early death, it did not set out to prove causes for that link. More specific work would be needed in order to do that. He also acknowledged that rather than dogs causing a healthy lifestyle among their owners, it could be that people who already favored a healthy lifestyle chose to own dogs as part of it.

Reacting to the study, Dr. Mike Knapton, from the British Heart Foundation, said previous studies had already shown a link between owning a dog and having a reduced risk of heart disease, but never on such a large scale as the Swedish study.

“Dog ownership has many benefits and we may now be able to count better heart health as one of them,” he said. “Whether you’re a dog owner or not, keeping active is a great way to improve your heart health.”

The 4 Friends Everyone Needs For A Happy Retirement 

Written by Sally Perkins

Retiring is more than just finding things to do with your time and having enough money to live well. A happy retirement also depends on who you’re spending that precious time with. Research has found that friends tend to matter more than family members when it comes to good health. A study from the University of Michigan asked 271,053 participants about happiness, health, and relationships, and found that while relationships with family members had a fixed effect on health, valued friendships improved people’s functioning and well-being as they got older. Although it’s easy to fall into the trap of going separate ways from your friends as life takes you in different directions, it’s important to maintain friendships during retirement.

Here are five friends everyone should have for a happier, healthier retirement.

The Childhood Friend

Research by the Psychology Bulletin found that friendship networks reach a high in one’s twenties, but these social circles get smaller with age. If you’re lucky enough to still have friends from childhood and early adulthood, you should hold onto them dearly. These friends can help to keep you youthful with the memories you’ve created over the years. They also know you more than other types of friends, which means they make great confidantes and company on lonely days. Research from the University of California, San Francisco, tracked 1,600 people around the age of 71 and found that lonely people experienced difficulties with daily activities, while they also had higher levels of mortality. Scarily, almost 23 percent of them died within six years, compared with the 14 percent who weren’t lonely. Reach out to your old friends – it’ll save your life!

The Hobby Friend

Having a friend who loves to try new things and has lots of hobbies could be very good for you by increasing your interests. Studies have found that when people in retirement had three or four hobbies, they were happier than people with fewer hobbies. The hobbies that increased people’s happiness included volunteering, golf, and travel. This is because hobbies that encourage social interaction are better for people than hobbies that can be pursued alone, such as reading. Being social and learning new things is great to maintain brain health as you get older. Another study found that being highly social reduces your dementia risk by 70 percent! So go on and call up your friend who loves to play a round of golf or holiday in Hawaii.

The Financially Savvy Friend

Everyone has a friend who knows all the latest business and finance trends. This friend might be older than you with lots of life experience. He/she is especially valuable to you they’ve been retired for a while as they can help you make the transition into retirement much smoother. They’ll be clued up on things like protecting your family’s future. This might not seem important in the early days of your retirement happiness, but it is. By having someone who’s gained experience when it comes to the financial aspects of retirement, you’ll experience less stress.

A study by the University of Michigan monitored elderly people for nine years to find out what they worried about. It was found that the frequency and intensity of their worries increased dramatically for all of them over nine years. Common worries for the elderly included the health of, and difficulties related to, family members. The reason for the increase in worry, the study found, was linked to the seniors feeling they had less control in life. By ensuring your financial portfolio and insurance are sorted out, you can decrease worries related to the financial well-being of your family, which puts you in greater control of your life.

In another study by Cornell University, when researchers asked 1,200 elders what their biggest life regrets are, many said they wished they had spent less time worrying. By taking action on the things you worry about, such as money and insurance, with the help of your financially savvy friend, you can spend less time worrying and more time living!

The Worker Bee Friend

Ideally, you don’t want to feel the pressure to continue working into your retirement to make ends meet. That can be very stressful. However, with lots more time on your hands, it might be a good idea to pursue the types of jobs that you’ve always wanted to do but never had the time for. That’s why a friend who’s continuing to work in odd jobs that make her happy is a great inspiration to you. Not only will you be inspired to stay busy but you’ll be making wonderful use of the gift of spare time given to you. Choose something that you’re really passionate about. The money you earn from it is just a bonus. A study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology found that when people in retirement had temporary or part-time jobs, they experienced fewer major diseases, such as heart disease and high blood pressure, when compared to people who completely stopped working when they retired.

There are many benefits to having friends such as the above when you retire. They’ll keep you young, support you, keep you active and remind you to chase your passions, proving that retirement is the perfect new beginning to start living life your way!

Make Your Retirement a Healthy One

Guest Post by Joseph Byrne, Founder and CEO of, a service that connects highly-skilled retirees to part-time or short-term consulting projects in various industries. Below, Mr. Byrne offers his insight into working after retirement and the gap he aims to fill.

Our idea of retirement has changed with each passing generation. Many people count down the days until they can relax with no time-constraints, play golf, visit family and friends, and take the trip they have put off for years. Others find their true passion in their work, committed to continue working as long as their health allows. Still others look forward to volunteering, taking on a second-career, or pursuing a passion project that has eluded them. Often, these visions change during our retirement years after finishing the initial “retirement honeymoon” phase. Retirement can have many different visions to different people; but it does not have to have just one.

As the baby boomer generation is retiring in record numbers (some 10,000 per day), there are millions who are contemplating their next move. Financially, many retirees are not prepared to completely discontinue a regular income, but do not need their full annual salary to feel comfortable. For many, working in retirement is not a burden that interferes with more desirable activities. On the contrary, working in a capacity that allows retirees flexibility, the chance to keep their skills sharp, an opportunity to maintain continued connection with colleagues, all while earning additional retirement income, is a highly fulfilling and prosperous endeavor.

According to research by Merrill Lynch and Age Wave, 47% of retirees say they are either working or plan to work in retirement. This figure increases with people who are actually still working full-time: 72% say they plan to work in some fashion in retirement. Millions of retirees with years of experience, contacts, and expertise are underutilized; their knowledge simply sits on the sidelines. Part-time, value-added work opportunities seem to only exist for the select few via personal networks.

As I spoke with many highly-educated and highly-trained retirees, this stalemate seemed to be a common thread. There was certainly no shortage of useful experience, and furthermore, after a number of conversations with Human Resources representatives, many firms actually sought out this arrangement to help complete short-term and/or particularly challenging projects. It was after a number of these interactions that my team and I decided to create Empowered Age. We formed our hypothesis around this inefficiency and our directive was simple: bridge the gap between retirees and firms who desire to tap into their wealth of experience. After some market research and testing, was born.

There are a number of websites that cater to retirees looking to work after their “formal” retirement. Many of these services, however, list mostly hourly or manual labor openings. Empowered Age aims to take this a step further, targeting retirees with years of highly skilled experience that can provide exceptional value to a growing firm. Many of these arrangements are projects to help launch a new product, oversee a new office opening, or advise on a new sales strategy.

In our experience, the feedback we have collected has overwhelmingly confirmed our suspicions. First, that there are a significant number of firms looking to engage in this sort of employment arrangement. But more importantly, the retirees or semi-retirees who are eager to fill these roles report a deep renewal of value, continued social status that was familiar during their full-time working years, and a satisfaction in using their knowledge to help drive growth in their organization. In addition, although we did not initially anticipate, firms have been eager to support initiatives that drive inclusion and diversity as it relates to age. This has been an unexpected by-product that we proudly boast.

Moreover, there are encouraging studies that suggest working later in life – and past the “typical” retirement age – can actually be a significant health benefit. This New York Times Article quotes Columbia and Harvard University Professors regarding the mental and physical health benefits of working in retirement as well as the delay of negative retirement consequences such as fatigue and loss of concentration. In fact, researchers from Cornell and Syracuse Universities found that people who continued to work after formal retirement grew their network of family and friends by 25 percent! On the other hand, social networks of retired non-working people actually shrank during the 5-year study period. The study continues, “Work offers a routine and purpose, a reason for getting up in the morning. The workplace is a social environment, a community.”

In this article for The Today Show, author Jean Chatzky writes that researchers from Oregon State University studied a large group of individuals age 50 and over. The researchers found that people who worked past the age of 65 had an 11% lower chance of death from all causes. Ms. Chatzky continues to quote a survey of 80,000 participants from the National Health Interview all over the age of 65: “People in the workforce (particularly those with white-collar jobs) were significantly more likely to report their health was good, very good or excellent than those who were unemployed or retired.” In the countless hours of research we have conducted as noted above, this completely matches what we have found.

Whatever your idea of retirement may be, planning will be an important part. Whether that be financially, geographically, professionally, or socially, be aware to engage in activities that provide value to you. Look for opportunities that benefit your intellectual as well as your physical health. Wherever your journey takes you, we wish you health and success. If part-time consulting work is in that journey, Empowered Age will help you along the way. Visit us at Empowered Age for more information.

Joseph can be reached at Please follow on twitter @EmpoweredAge.