Aging Gracefully

Experts says the key to age gracefully includes accepting change, and, finding meaningful activities. Aging gracefully isn’t just about trying to look younger, but it’s about living your best life, and, having the physical and mental health to enjoy it. And to achieve this, one has to live a stress-free life; which is near impossible. However, here I am not talking about only humans. I am talking about dogs too and the co-relation between your dog and you to help you and your dog age gracefully.

Junior is 8.5 years old and is already considered as a senior dog. But one time when I had taken him to the vet, a well-known celebrity told me that my dog still looks and behaves like a juvenile. I was elated! More often, seeing Junior, people do not believe me when I tell them that he is a senior dog. The same way, I am still considered as a college going student, and not someone who is in her late 30s. So how is this co-related and how do we achieve this?

Here’s how:

First of all, old age is not a disease and always embrace your dog’s age. Please understand, it’s a life process, infact golden years of dogs and old dogs are as much beautiful as younger ones or puppies.

The first and most important ingredient for a younger looking and feeling human and dog is to remain physically active. Never stay solitary, always move, and start young! Always maintain an ideal weight to avoid illnesses and joint problems as you and your dog turns old. Now, if you are above 35 years of age or your dog is above 7 years old, exercise in such a way that there is not much pressure on your joints and heart.

For senior dogs, please limit the time of activity and understand that it is natural for them to sleep more. My vet had told me to reduce Junior’s activity to avoid any accident such as falling or slipping, as fractures in an old age is panful and difficult to cure. This holds true for both – humans and dogs.

Physical activity not only improves your health physically, but has a long term positive effect on the mental health too. As I had mentioned in my previous blog posts, hitting the gym helped me way too much in getting over a breakup and stress. The same way, Junior becomes absolutely fresh when he goes out for his walk. Since he is turning old, I have reduced his walk time from 45 minutes to 30 minutes once a day and I play various games with him at home two times, each game for 10 minutes, once in the morning before I go for work and once in the evening when he wakes up from his afternoon nap. Please note, never play with your dogs immediately after feeding them. Same way, never go to the gym or exercise on a full stomach.

Also, when you are physically active, it reduces stress, keeps you mobile and brings a natural glow on your face. Similarly, when dogs have been physically active, they have less disorders, their brains are active and their fur/coat shines.

Now physical activity doesn’t always mean you have to lift weights or run a marathon. It can mean as simple as just going for a walk or doing yoga for 45 minutes a day for 5 days a week. Always give atleast 1-day rest to your body in a week. But this does not apply for dogs. Dogs need to go for a walk every day.  The best way to fulfill your activity quota is you personally take your dogs for walk. That way, both of you’ll will remain healthy.

Second tip to look and feel younger is to avoid over eating. Obesity is very harmful for humans as well as dogs. Obesity is a preventable disease. But why wait for that! Precaution is always better than cure. When I was obese, I never had the confidence and struggled with self-image. Also, I looked 20 years older than my age. Fortunately, neither Casper or Junior have ever been obese. Thanks to their active lifestyle and accurate meal content. My dinners are always light, either soups or tea and biscuit or just theplas (masala roti). I have proper Indian lunch which includes my nutrients of the day, that is dal, roti, sabzi and chawal.

Mental illness is on the rise these days. Not all of us can go out for walks or take our dogs out for walks. And stress and depression does make you look older. For this, you can do pranayama and surya namashkar at home. Videos are widely available or youtube which are relatively easy to follow. For dogs, hide one-one kibble somewhere in the house and let your dog find it. This way, his brain and body will remain active.

Third and last important one, get enough sleep. When we sleep, our body repairs itself, body temperature decreases itself, eye movements stop, heart rate and muscles continue to relax and the brain waves slows down. Besides this, there are various benefits when you sleep with your dog. It decreases loneliness, maximizes comfort, increases sense of security, eases insomnia, reduces depression and stress, lowers blood pressure, reduces allergies later in life, promotes heart health and gives warmth to the body. This is what I call the true meaning of “Beauty Sleep”.

Over the years and following all the above myself, I have seen a drastic difference in me. I am aging, but gracefully, and, so is Junior. Yes, my Casper passed away young, but that was because he was a result of over breeding. Apart from this, always get yours and your dog’s blood check done every year. Do not over do anything. And never push or pressurize your dog to walk or play more. If he retreats, then let him be and start again after sometime. As he ages, change his dog food if needed and follow the vet’s instruction well. Older dogs need us more than anything and for them to have smooth old age, be vigilant and report any unusual behavior to the vet immediately.

Stay healthy, stay young, and remember – age is just a number!