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.”

Make Your Retirement a Healthy One

Guest Post by Joseph Byrne, Founder and CEO of EmpoweredAge.com, 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, Empoweredage.com 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 joseph.byrne@empoweredage.com. Please follow on twitter @EmpoweredAge.

Revive Your Retirement

In the beginning entering retirement is a glorious adventure. How incredibly liberating it is to finally have time to do all you have wanted to. It feels wonderful to live at a pace you are comfortable with rather than one dictated by others. Days can be filled with activities you enjoy, hobbies you choose to revisit, and an endless variety of new things to explore. What could be better?

And yet some find sustaining a fulfilling fun retirement is not so easy. After a year or so spent catching up on travel dreams and reconnecting with friends and family and whittling down that to-do-list and taking a second look at hobbies of yore, that initial excitement can begin to wear off. What next? What do I do to find meaning in my days?

Keeping your retirement fresh and interesting is a full time job. You cannot laze your way through if you want to make the most of your second act.

Get a Job (you like)

I am not suggesting you jump back into the mad working fray you so recently escaped. Rather, imagine a role you would enjoy at a company you respect doing something that brings a smile to your face. Such a place does exist – you just have to find it.

Create the blueprint of your perfect job. Figure out how many hours you would like to work. Factor in your commute or if possible avoid that time sink completely. Make a list of those things you do not want to do and avoid those situations. Reach out to your professional as well as personal network to share what you are looking for. As you know many jobs are never listed but rather filled by someone who knows someone.

Don’t settle for less than what you deserve. You have paid your dues. Those days of stress and struggle are behind. Take your time, consider your options, and do your diligence before you make your move. And remember if it does not work out you do not have to stick with it.

This time around don’t settle until you find a job you like/enjoy/look forward to.

Set Free the Creative You

Each of us is creative in his/her own way. It’s just some of us push that creativity down inside us rather than unleash it. Whether we resist expressing our talents because we are shy or afraid or lack confidence or are simply hiding, if we dig down it is there. Not all of us can be a Da Vinci or Hemingway but so what. You do not have to impress anyone.

The thing about creativity is it seeks an outlet. You can only deny your inner self so long. Write a book or a play or a short story or a poem. Compose a song. Paint a landscape. Start a garden. Remodel a room. Rehabilitate an old car. Try something new not because you have to but because you choose to.

Expand your Mind

Would you be interested in learning more about a topic that excites you? Going “back to school” when you retire is a whole new ballgame. Firstly with all the online offerings you don’t necessarily have to go to a classroom. This time around there will be no exams, no competition to be the best, no deadlines to deliver. You can work at a pace you choose. You “study” when you want to. And if you lose interest along the way you are free to move onto something new.

Retirees find themselves removed from the demanding world they knew, a positive in many ways. But without that routine requiring us to think and engage it is easy to lose your edge and find your senses dulled. Exercise that brain to stay on top of your game.

Be Wild and Crazy

Retirement offers a chance to step outside the box you have lived within all these years. No one is watching – do what you want. And even in someone is watching, so what! Dance in the street if the mood strikes you. Color your hair or your nails or your lips anyway you want. Sing, laugh, dance, enjoy – if not now, when? As a sage Forrest Gump might venture, “crazy is as crazy does.”

Record your story

Many are interested in understanding the people and places that constitute their personal history. Ancestry.com and other sites help dig up facts and faces to better understand where we came from. But the best source of accurate information for future generations is stored in our individual memories. No one knows better the minute details that make up the life we have lived. Who can more vividly paint a picture of the environment and times, the hopes and challenges, the happiness and tears than someone who has experienced them first hand. Imagine a descendant reading your story a hundred years from now, reliving those times that tie you together forever.

Our second act can be the best time of our lives. Revive your retirement by trying new things. None of us wants to miss out on a once in a lifetime opportunity when it comes our way.

LoveBeingRetired.com