This is particularly important now as the pandemic has caused millions of high-risk, vulnerable seniors to isolate as a means to protect themselves from the coronavirus.
Robotic pet studies
In 2018, the New York State Office for the Aging was the first state in the U.S. to test robotic pets with isolated seniors and results showed that using pets to lower social isolation was highly successful, with 70 percent of pilot participants reporting a decrease in isolation after one year.
Subsequent programs done in aging agencies in Alabama, Florida and Pennsylvania have also shown positive results.
Other clinical studies conducted by AARP, UnitedHealthcare and other clinicians have also found robotic pets can help the well-being and quality of life of lonely or isolated individuals and those living with dementia and other forms of cognitive decline by providing a level of interaction and comfort from a lifelike companion.
Where to look
If you’re interested in getting your mom a robotic pet, a top option is Ageless Innovation’s Joy for All Companion Pets. Visit online at joyforall.com for information.
They offer cats, a kitten and a pup that look, feel and sound like the real thing — minus the feeding, watering, litter box or backyard cleanup and vet bills. With prices ranging between $65 and $130, these soft, plush animals have built-in sensors, “vibrapurr” or “barkback” technology and brushable fur, making them surprisingly realistic.
Insert four batteries and the cats, which come in four different shades to mimic real breeds, can open and close their eyes, lift their paws and move their head and body. If you pet them in the right spot — like on their belly or back side — they’ll let out a purr.
If your mom is more of a dog person, you can also buy a stuffed golden puppy, accessorized with a red bandana, that will bark if he’s feeling happy, sad or needy. At only four pounds, the stuffed pup is easy to play with and won’t weigh down even the most fragile frame.
Some other robotic pet options you should look into include Tombot’s Jennie ($399; tombot.com), a lapdog that barks on command and has realistic facial features; AIBO ($2,900; us.aibo.com) by Sony, which is a plastic puppy that has lifelike expressions and a dynamic array of movements; and Paro the Seal ($6,120;parorobots.com), which is marketed as a “carebot,” designed specifically for people with dementia.