Robotic dog with senior citizen

A Search for the Purr-fect Companion

As he entered our home, Tony’s bright blue eyes lit up with excitement and his smile brightened the room. He saw her carefully peek her nose around the corner of the sofa. She was shy and coy noticing his presence and unsure of how to approach. He gasped and grinned then asked, “Do you have a cat?”  

He walked over to the couch near her then sat on the chair across from her. He reached his trembling hand down to the carpet from his chair motioning for her to come over to him. She slowly approached and allowed him to pet her. The happiness in his eyes and the expression on his face brought tears to my eyes. Tony’s love of animals continues to shine through all the confusion, frustration, and fear that dementia has created in his life. 

As a Certified Senior Advisor®, I began to think of options that might provide him a way to experience animals without having the responsibility of caring for them. I realized that having a pet creates more challenges for someone experiencing dementia as the tasks of cleaning and feeding can be overwhelming. I called the Washington County Humane Society to possibly set up a visit to the facility with him. I thought I might be able to sit with him in the Kitty Room and let him pet as many cats as he would like or play with the puppies to brighten his day. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 and the facility’s construction issues, visits would not be possible. However, they shared an idea to purchase a robotic animal used therapeutically with seniors experiencing dementia and Alzheimer symptoms. The robotic animals could be found on the Alzheimer’s Store website. Curiously, a Google search ensued, and ideas began to flow for making a pet possible for Tony to bring joy and purpose into his life.  This appeared to be a possible solution to our animal challenge!

As seniors find themselves isolated from loved ones during the pandemic, some are finding that robotic animals are providing much needed companionship.  Many seniors in various residential facilities suffer from loneliness and could discover that a robotic pet might improve their mental well-being by giving them a sense of purpose and optimism. 

But the isolation caused by the coronavirus, not only in facilities but also among seniors living alone in their homes, has intensified interest in robotic pets according to the Alzheimer Store. Coronavirus has really isolated those individuals with dementia, like Tony, who are less able to access online diversions and communications. Without a doubt, watching Tony experience dementia has been extremely difficult. He deserves to spend his remaining years with as much love and warmth as possible. In my opinion, $129.99 is a small price to pay for my father-in-law’s happiness. Perhaps Santa will send him a special pet this year!