Feb 16, 2021

New robotic puppy bringing comfort and joy to people living with dementia

Older man with cute robo pet
Image source: Joy For All

There’s no doubt about the positive impacts animals can have on people. However, there are some concerns about people living with dementia keeping animals, with the potential for forgetfulness around feeding, grooming and cleaning up after the animal. 

A company in the US, who produce robotic pets for older people, is looking to change this with the introduction of a third furry friend to their fleet of animal companions. Ageless Innovation has introduced the freckled pup, which resembles a brown and white cocker spaniel, as their third interactive ‘robopet’, joining a golden retriever and a cat, which comes in silver, tuxedo or orange tabby. 

This robopet dog, produced and sold by Joy for All, a brand under Ageless Innovations, have been designed specifically for older people, people living with dementia, and other people living with cognitive decline. Developed off the back of market research, consumer insights and feedback from older people and their loved ones, these robots are designed to mimic the experience of owning a “real” pet. 

Able to respond to human voices, and react to patting, hugging and touching with true to reality sounds, they are also fitted with a simulated heartbeat to make them appear more lifelike. The pets are built to be small and lightweight enough to comfortably sit on a person’s lap.

In a previous interview with HelloCare, Griffith University Professor, Wendy Moyle talked about the benefits of robopets in aged care. 

“Robotic pets can be very helpful for people with cognitive impairment… who may forget to feed, hygiene or toilet live pets. We found in our studies that most people react positively to robotic pets, particularly to those that they don’t have a negative memory about, i.e. a dog that has bitten them for example.”

According to research conducted by Joy for All, these robopets have the ability to reduce anxiety or agitation, improve mood and wellbeing, and reduce depression, help improve cognition, and have even been shown to improve delirium in hospitalised patients.

In one study from the University of Exeter, researchers also found that older people who had a robopet also increased their interactions with other residents in their facilities, and with loved ones and staff members, often using the robopet as the stimulant to conversation. 

“Although not every care home resident may choose to interact with robopets, for those who do, they appear to offer many benefits. Some of these are around stimulating conversations or triggering memories of their own pets or past experiences, and there is also the comfort of touching or interacting with the robopet itself. The joy of having something to care for was a strong finding across many of the studies,” said lead author Dr Rebecca Abbott, from the University of Exeter Medical School.  

Ranging from $110 – $130 USD, Ageless Innovation is hoping to establish a relationship with the UKs National Health Services, as they have already established relationships with healthcare insurance providers in the US to provide the pets as a fully-covered supplemental benefit. 

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