Robotic pets in demand at retirement homes

Having pets has been proven to be therapeutic time and time again, but what about the use of robotic animals?
By Latasha Seow
Published on Wednesday, 05 April 2017

Photo credit: The New York Times

 

Having a pet that responds to your affection without needing to be cared for might be just about anyone’s dream. Retirement homes for elderly patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease  across the U.S. are quickly adopting pets like these–just that they aren’t exactly alive.

 

The cats, called Joy For All Companion Cats, are made by Hasbro and retail at S$136. The felines even come in three models–orange tabby, creamy white and silver with white mitts. Built-in sensors allow these faux kitties to respond to motion and touch, and the toys’ ability to purr and meow makes interacting with the cats incredibly realistic.

 

This is especially important to the residents of Hebrew Home who suffer from dementia and have trouble telling their caretakers what kind of activities they are interested in. As a result, they begin to withdraw from social interaction and activities, and end up becoming increasingly passive throughout the rest of their days. The use of these robotic cats could be a possible way to bring them out of this cycle of passivity.

 

Mary Farkas, director of therapeutic activities at Hebrew Home in New York, told The New York Times that these battery-operated felines give those living in the home a chance to be in an “active, empowered role again”. By taking on the role of a caregiver to these cats, the residents of the home are given the chance to actively take care of a pet that is able to “reciprocate” their affection by purring and closing their eyes. This further encourages them to want to continue playing with the kitty, and as such, creates a positive cyclical effect.

 

With the added perk that these life-like felines don’t require any sort of looking after besides the occasional changing of batteries, it seems that these pets are almost purrfect for keeping the elderly company. The cats have been such a hit at Hebrew Home that they’re considering getting at least 25 more, in addition to the 25 that they already have!