Lifelike Robotic Pets Bring Joy And Serenity To Seniors, Combatting Stress And Loneliness
Lifelike robotic pets ‘companion animals’ are now offering the elderly all the feel-good perks of pet ownership, but without the drawbacks.
According to research, pet therapy has numerous benefits that run the gamut from helping alleviate anxiety and loneliness, to lowering blood pressure and cortisol levels, to fostering enhanced social interaction.
“The simple act of petting animals releases an automatic relaxation response,” a report from UCLA Health reveals. “Humans interacting with animals have found that petting the animal promoted the release of serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin—all hormones that can play a part in elevating moods.”
Unfortunately, the practicalities of pet ownership: feeding, grooming, and vet visits—not to mention cleaning up the occasional “Oops!”—all too often limits seniors, especially those in assisted living, from having a fluffy friend to call their own. But now, thanks to a novel breed of robotic puppies and kitties, many seniors are getting a “new leash on life.”
The leader of the pack when it comes to robotic companion animals is Joy For All Companion Pets. This line of “adoptable” animatronic fur babies from manufacturer Ageless Innovation was specifically created by a group of former Hasbro toy designers with seniors in mind.
“We have technology that allows you to respond to touch and sound and light in different ways,” Ageless Innovation CEO Ted Fischer told CNN. “That’s part of the magic of a companion pet.”
In addition to providing companionship, robot pets have shown amazing promise for improving the quality of life for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.
In a CBS Health Watch interview filmed at the Memory Care Unit at the Hebrew Home in Riverdale, New York, spokesperson Mary Farkas explained their cadre of resident robotic pets are often used to soothe agitated dementia sufferers rather than resorting to drugs. “These animals are a wonderful way, a nonpharmacologic approach to offer comfort and a sense of calm,” she said.
Decreased meds and a calming influence are definite checks in the plus column, but the benefits don’t stop there. Often offering a dose of much-needed role reversal, robotic pets also boost seniors’ self-esteem. “[They] provide an opportunity for the resident to be in the role of the nurturer and the caregiver,” Hebrew Home CEO Daniel Rheingold told CBS.
So, are robotic pets the “purrfect” solution for seniors suffering unrequited puppy love or crushing on kitty in a cat-free zone? Signs point to “Woof!”