This 108-Year-Old Woman Says Dogs Are the Secret to Her Long Life · The Wildest

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108-Year-Old Woman Says Dogs Are the Secret to a Long Life

She says not having kids — and only dogs — is a huge contributor. Makes you think.

by Nisha Gopalan
June 26, 2023
Illustration by Zoé Coulon, a person holding a dog with two dogs beside them
Illustration: Zoé Coulon

Earlier this month, at the Codnor Park Care Home in Derbyshire, England, a woman named Ada Daniel celebrated her 108th birthday. Asked about the secret to living such a long life, she reportedly chalked up her longevity to: (1) not having children and (2) having dogs. “She had a lot of Greyhounds,” Kelly Goucher, an activity coordinator at the home, told the BBC. “She lived on Street Lane in Ripley, and all of her Greyhounds were also called Street Lane.”

To be fair, the research into parenthood and life expectancy is mixed. But when it comes to canines, Daniel is definitely onto something.

Dogs Improve Your Life: It’s Science

This shouldn’t be too surprising when you CSI-together the various clues we’ve gotten over the years regarding canine companions’ life-affirming effects. Roughly 15 years ago, one study suggested that being in the company of dogs increases the level of oxytocin in humans. Better known as the “ love hormone” (and often associated with childbirth), oxytocin can decrease anxiety and depression in both women and men. 

Another set of research, which spanned 11 years and was released in 2019, is even more compelling. Evidence resoundingly showed that having a pup could extend the lives of those who suffer from a stroke or heart disease. The physical activity and reduced stress levels that come with having a dog are key factors here. Seeing as how heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., that’s kind of a game-changer.

For these reasons — plus the fact that we just love dogs — there’s even a (controversial) start-up called Loyal , which is engineering a drug to delay canine aging. If that sounds absurd, consider the fact that its CEO has raised a staggering $58 million with the hopes of assuaging Mother Nature.

A Blueprint For a Long Life

But back to Ada Daniel. She doesn’t have much family left. And when it comes to her Stateside senior contemporaries, more than a third of them live alone, too. The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (yes, that’s an actual thing) claims that persistent loneliness, in terms of burden, is the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Which is to say: Pets give owners a sense of purpose and social connection, thus staving off depression among the most vulnerable. 

What have we learned here? Well, we certainly won’t live forever. But if you want to live by this wise centenarian’s example, it’s probably time to get another dog. 

nisha gopalan illustration

Nisha Gopalan

Nisha Gopalan has been a writer/editor for The New York Times, New York magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and NYLON magazines. She currently resides in Los Angeles.

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