Robotic pets are the latest trend among seniors. Pilot programs around the country have seen tremendous success after distributing the pets to thousands of participants. The pets’ initial design was for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia; however, the COVID pandemic’s isolation has increased interest in these unique pets. These furry robot friends were able to take on the role of a companion for those feeling lonely.
Companies like Joy for All™ partnered with older adults to get input when designing the robotic cats and dogs. The design hopes to make them feel as “lifelike” as possible. The pets are soft with realistic fur, and some can even respond to human interaction. They also have simulated heartbeats and react to their owner’s voice and touch. Cats will purr when being petted, and dogs make life-like sounds. These pets come with the benefit of a two-way companionship without the responsibilities of an actual pet.
While studies have shown that animal therapy has been beneficial for seniors, it may not be the right fit for everyone because of the physical demands of owning a pet. In recent years robotic pets have provided low maintenance benefits like those from animal therapy.
Some of the senior-care facilities that gave out robotic pets saw residents experience better moods and appetites, decreased stress and anxiety, fewer medications, and reduced behavioral problems. There were also signs that those who got to spend time with the pet had improved mental well-being, a sense of purpose and optimism, and reduced loneliness. Individual owners grew attached to their pets, even giving them names and dressing them in fun outfits.
These robotic companions have proven to be valuable for many families especially during times that require isolation from loved ones.