According to the Research Center for Human Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri, for adults living alone (like an elder), an animal can provide focus, reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation, and pet owners tend to take better care of themselves. For Boomers with a newly emptied nest, an animal friend can have a similar effect; reduce loneliness and that lost feeling that comes from full-time parenting coming to an end.
But, not all breeds are created equal when it comes to meeting specific needs such as elder-companionship or busy Boomer lives.
So, first, here's the top-pick dogs/cats for elders:
Mixed-breed dogs make wonderful pets, plus you serve the dual purpose of giving an abandoned animal-person a great home! A wide selection await a home at your local animal shelter/rescue center (unfortunately, most not adopted will be euthanized).
the door for a daily dose of exercise or socialization. Then once s/he’s had enough activity, s/he’ll nestle into a comfortable spot by your elder's side.
Pug: This faithful dog thrives on attention, and will keep his/her pet-parent entertained with that well-known silly personality. Pugs can’t handle too much activity, so brief, daily play or short walks will do just fine, perfect for an elder who also can't handle too much activity.
Mixed breed cats from your local shelter: same reason as mixed breed dogs above...
Persians & Himalayans: For folks who need companionship over activity, these fluffy lap cats are a great choice. Both breeds are mild-mannered and not terribly active.
And for empty-nesters:
Yorkie: a small dog at 8 pounds tops, with the personality of a big dog in a tiny body... loving and loyal...Yorkies will lick you to death...
Greyhound: This sensitive, mellow dog makes a gentle roommate, and even ex-racers don’t have the demanding fitness needs you might expect - plus you can save a retired racer from being euthanized as most are. They like to run off the leash a few times a week, so best is a fenced yard or nearby field/dog park, otherwise leashed walks will do. Greyhounds enjoy quiet company, a peaceful environment, and a warm, soft place to nap.
Poodle: generally considered a "thinking" breed, which is why they're widely employed as guide/therapy dogs. If you don't want the larger standard size, you can choose a toy or miniature poodle and you get the same brain, just in a smaller size.
Cats: Interestingly, these are about the same for us as for our elders, so get one for each of you! And remember, cats are not as "independent" as they seem; they need daily love & attention, too.
Finally, if you or your loved-one is new to dog ownership, here's a handy guide for new dog parents from the American Kennel Club.
You have been officially alerted....