A New Pilot Program Pairs Robotic Pets with Senior Citizens to Combat Loneliness
For months, individuals and families have quarantined at home due to the coronavirus pandemic. And with social distancing guidelines in place in most states across the country and fewer opportunities to socialize with friends, mental health experts explain that the impact of isolation can be drastic, especially for senior citizens. To combat feelings of loneliness and anxiety, a new pilot program in partnership with Joy for All Companion Pets provides lifelike robotic therapy pets to the elderly. "Joy for All Companion Pets are designed to bring comfort, companionship, and fun to elder loved ones. Our interactive cats and pup are all about an ease-of-care and convenience that pairs with technology for the best possible experience," says the company.
New York and Alabama have been the first two states in the U.S. to test the use of robotic pets through Joy for All Companion Pets. After success in New York, the same pilot program was administered by the Alabama Department of Senior Services. "We have technology inside that product that allows you to respond to touch and sound and light in different ways. And what we found is older adults wanted realism," Ageless Innovation's CEO Ted Fischer told CNN. "That's part of the magic of a companion pet." For approximately $100 per pet, per person, state government services can provide those in need with a pet to love.
Senior citizens are able to reap the benefits of pet companionship without needing to care for them the way that you do a real cat or dog. There is a simple on and off button on each pet so the pet owner can control exactly when—and for how long—they want to interact with the pet. So, who is a robotic pet right for? Joy for All Companion Pets says that their product is right for those who would enjoy being entertained by, and engaging with, a life-like pet without assuming the responsibilities and expenses associated with taking care of a real pet.
According to Ageless Innovations, 70 percent of participants in the pilot program reported a decrease in feelings of isolation and loneliness after one year of use. The Alabama Department of Senior Services is already looking into a second installation of the pet pilot program.