Constant Companions: Robotic Pets for Seniors
“You’ve got a friend in me…” No matter how old we get, having friends and companions is something that we crave. In fact, the older we get, the more important those personal relationships become. Socialization and healthy relationships can do wonders for helping seniors age well and live happy lives. For many people, that companionship can come in the form of a four-legged, furry friend.
“Pets these days are very much a part of the family, more so than they ever were in the past,” says Beth Covault, Director of the Community at Azpira Place of Breton, a vibrant community in Kentwood, MI. “Anyone who’s had and loved a pet can understand why. They give unconditional love, brighten our lives and form deep bonds with us. In fact, many people will call their pets their ‘kids’ or their ‘fur babies’ because that’s how they feel about them.”
Many studies have shown that the simple love a pet has for its owner can be incredibly beneficial to seniors. In fact, a 2017 study revealed that the relationship between aging adults and pets can help ease anxiety, lower blood pressure, reduce loneliness and improve quality of life. However, many older adults who have mobility issues, dementia or another issue that makes it hard for them to have a living pet.
Enter a solution that sounds straight out of a science-fiction novel: robotic pets.
“Pet therapy has been on the rise in senior living, and thanks to rapid advancements in the technology sector, robotic pets are quickly becoming an excellent solution for those who can’t have a ‘real’ pet for whatever reason,” says Beth.
Companion Robots: The Perfect Solution
Owning a pet is a big responsibility. They need to be fed, played with, exercised, let out to handle their needs. They, too, can become bored, aggressive or a slew of other things that may or may not be beneficial to an elderly adult. A companion robot pet, however, doesn’t have any of those needs. You don’t have to worry about it scratching you, having an accident on the floor, getting sick and needing an emergency visit to the vet or even passing away.
Robotic pets have been designed specifically to respond to interaction such as petting or being spoken to. For example, robotic cats may purr when you scratch them behind the ears, roll over so you can pet their belly or meow to capture your attention.
Seals and Dogs and Cats, Oh My!
The robotic pet phenomenon kicked off in 2004 with the creation of a therapeutic robot baby harp seal, PARO. Now in its eighth generation of design, PARO has five types of sensors which respond to posture, temperature, light, touch and audio. It can also “learn” and model behaviors that it knows will help benefit the user.
In 2015, the toy company Hasbro formed an innovation team to expand their products into the health and wellness space. The result was the company Joy for All, whose mission was to bring companionship and joy to older adults with robotic companion pets. It quickly took over the marketplace, making affordable robotic companions (a basic model starts at just $99.99) that are used by Memory Support communities and personal caregivers across the country. Many more innovators are moving into the space currently, making the designs even more affordable and increasingly sophisticated.
Similar Benefits, None of the Mess
Put a robot cat next to a real cat and, yes, you will immediately be able to spot the difference. But in places where having a live animal isn’t feasible, a robotic companion animal can have the same positive benefits with none of the drawbacks. According to the Biophilia hypothesis, when we see an animal at rest – whether it’s real or a robot – we immediately become calm because our “lizard brain” is telling us that our environment is safe.
Pet therapy has long been a part of dementia care and assisted living, but living animals can become tired, frightened, overstimulated, rowdy and unpredictable. We love them anyway, but for older adults who have cognitive issues, allergies or other concerns, a real animal may cause safety problems. A robotic pet, on the other hand, never gets tired, will never bite or scratch and can be put away on a shelf if the senior becomes distracted or uninterested. It’s the best of both worlds – for the seniors and the animals.
Pet Therapy at Azpira Place® of Breton
Our parent company, Pathway to Living®, has long been a proponent of animal therapy for residents of their communities. That’s why they created the innovative VIVA! Program See Spot Retire, which is part of our programming offering at Azpira Place of Breton. We believe that our golden years are a time for new adventures and new experience – not just for human seniors, but for animal seniors, too. See Spot Retire pairs senior dogs with our community to give these shelter pups a new home filled with loads of new family members ready to dote on them.
Besides our own personal Azpira Place dog, we also offer pet therapy to our Assisted Living and Memory Support resident. We’ve seen firsthand the joy and happiness that our furry friends bring to us, and fewer things are rewarding than watching the eyes of our residents light up when they cuddle a cat or let a dog know that he’s a good boy.
If you have any questions about the pet therapies available at our community, the benefits of pet therapy for aging adults or to learn more about life at Azpira Place of Breton, please contact us at 616-259-5526.
Live Well. Age Well. Be Well.
At Azpira Place® of Breton, located in Kentwood, MI, we’re redefining how seniors Live Well. Age Well. Be Well. Our lifestyle is far from “typical.” Our vibrant and engaging Assisted Living and uplifting A Knew Day® Memory Support inspires our residents to live passionately with purpose, every single day
Each day, our residents find the person-centered support and care they need, all while enjoying an inspiring and engaging lifestyle. The need for care or support doesn’t stop our residents from wanting to be active, involved or engaged, and it especially doesn’t keep them from obtaining the lifestyle they desire and deserve. With a variety of spacious private apartment floor plans, constant access to good company, exciting services and amenities, delicious dining experiences and life-enriching programming, residents never have to worry about having nothing to do. There’s always something waiting for them just outside their door! And best yet, if they desire space and privacy, there’s also plenty of room for that, too! Spend time outdoors in the sunshine, read a favorite book in the library, take your pet for a walk or simply relax in your private apartment, the possibilities are endless!
At Azpira Place of Breton, residents never have to worry about maintenance, housekeeping or the tasks of homeownership. We created our community so our residents could have the peace of mind of care while focusing on what really matters, what makes them who they are. With engaging VIVA!SM programming by Pathway to Living®, residents can spend their newfound time learning something new, enjoying an old pastime, taking up a new hobby, starting their own classes and clubs or focusing on their health with our wellness programming. Experience the lifestyle you deserve and discover the key to what helps Azpira Place of Breton residents Live Well. Age Well. Be Well.
To learn more or schedule a personal visit, call us at 616-259-5526.