Robotic pets provide companionship for seniors

Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:

For seniors, companionship is important. That’s why pets can be great options; however, people with dementia may not be able to care for them. There are robotic dogs that may be able to help.

Henry Hager lives in Lee County. He doesn’t have dementia, but he needs an ankle replacement. As a widower, he lives alone. Making the recovery from the ankle procedure is difficult, so his caregivers with Visiting Angels introduced him to Buddy, a robotic golden retriever.

“I think there are a lot of people out there who, if they knew this was available, would like to take advantage of it,” Hager said.

This is one high-tech pup. It has sensors on its head and eyes. The robotic dog has a microphone so it can listen to you, and it even has a heartbeat.

“Being robotic, you can just pet the tar out of that thing, and it’s not going to bite you,” Dr. Lee Lindquist said.

Lindquist is chief of geriatrics at Northwestern Medicine.

She has studied the effects these animatronic animals have on seniors in all kinds of scenarios.

“Instead of using a sedating medicine or medicine that’s going to give them a lot of side effects, we can give them a robotic animal,” Lindquist said.

The pets are manufactured by Joy for All Companion Pets, originally launched by Hasbro. The Companion Pet Golden Pup featured there runs about $120 out of pocket. You can find robotic cats for around $100.

Research done by the University of Southern California and Aarhus University in Denmark showed seniors can get bored with the electronic pet after an extended period.

So, they are likely not a long-term solution, but it’s not stopping Hager form enjoying his new company.



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