First, the benefits.
Dog walking has a number of advantages for seniors, including daily exercise, fresh air, increased vitamin D from sun exposure and increased opportunities for social interaction with neighbors and other walkers. Pets, in general, can be beneficial to older adults because they offer companionship and a sense of purpose and routine.
Ervin says he’s seen the benefits of pet ownership—and dog walking, in particular—among his own patients. He has also observed the impact on patients of losing a pet.
“I had a patient that came in complaining of back pain and just not getting around well,” he says. “When I interviewed her family, I found that the change in her physical condition could be traced back to the death of her little dog that she’d had for so many years. Suddenly, she wasn’t going out three times a day walking him. Pretty soon she was having musculoskeletal issues from the lack of exercise.”