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Senior Technology: How Robotic Pets are Brightening Seniors Lives

Jul 15, 2018 by Comfort Keepers of Montclair and Hasbrouck Heights

It’s no secret that pets bring mankind incredible joy. Why else would dogs, for instance, be called “man’s best friend?”

Interestingly, these benefits extend well beyond making our hearts melt – pet owners have been shown to have lower cholesterol levels and healthier blood pressure readings. This could be because having pets inclines us to be more social and active, from walking our dogs to even recruiting our grandkids to help you catch crickets for our pet lizard.

And, along with boosting our mood, feelings of loneliness and isolation are reduced. This is especially important for seniors, as these negative feelings can actually shorten their lifespan.

So Why Robots?

Despite the joy and fulfillment these animals may bring to senior pet-lovers, many of these individuals are no longer fit to care for an animal, as they are unable to even take care of themselves.

Even for seniors still able to care for them, pets can pose dangers to older bodies. For example, over 21,000 senior patients visit the emergency room every year because they tripped over their cat or dog. Falls can also occur by tripping on toys, getting caught up in a leash, or even a dog sleeping on your feet at night can make it impossible for you to wriggle your way out of bed safely when you need to use the restroom.

Robotic animals are therefore a safe alternative to live animals for those who are better off without them. Obviously there’s a large difference between a real dog and a robotic dog, but in nursing homes and for therapy purposes, these robots are actually filling this void incredibly well.

Not a New Idea

While Hasbro has just recently come out with a new robotic dog, this idea of robotic pets has been around for over a decade.

It all stated in Japan, with Paro the seal. This adorable robotic pet is used in hospitals and nursing facilities across Japan, Europe and the U.S. to help seniors and children get some interaction, as well as to soothe them. Another company also already has a line of various breeds of cat and dog robots available.

Better Than the Real Thing

Some studies have confirmed that these pet substitutes are doing patients a lot of good. Loneliness was found to decrease in senior nursing home residents who frequently interacted with Paro the seal.

What’s even more interesting: in one scenario, residents actually chose to interact with Paro over a staff member’s live Jack Russell terrier that was visiting!

Though more research needs to be done, it’s safe to say that robotic pets are a safe and effective pet alternative for lonely seniors across the world.

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