Robotic Pets for Seniors Engage And Make Them Laugh
…. in future, they could complement medical alert systems for seniors.
Care and attention present themselves in many ways. Currently, there is much research and development into the robotic pet products such as seals, dogs and cats. The therapeutic effects when these little critters purr, touch and respond to their elderly owners can be clearly seen a majority of consumer feedback.
People often chuckle when they first hear about the idea, as though it’s “so fake” and just nothing like the fun of keeping a real pet. While pet robots are not alive and breathing, they are much easier to care for than living breathing pets that need to be fed and more. As seniors age, it becomes more and more difficult to take care of live pets. When you have a robot pet there is no need to pick up the poop or jerk after a leash.
What Are Robotic Pets?
Synthetic materials made up robot ‘fur’. Aluminum struts and plastic made the robot small and flexible. Electronic circuits, sensors, and batteries allowed the robot ‘pet abilities’. Programming pulled it all together for an interactive finish. These pets can look like a pet, feel like a pet, and even behave like a pet. Robotic pets have been with the elderly of Japan and Europe for over ten years.
Meet Paro the Bay Harp Seal
Paro, the robot baby harp seal started the academic revolution on robotic pets. Paro ‘snuggles’ when praised. It turns toward a greeting. It makes soft sounds when praised. It even ‘remembers’ stroking and petting. Its introduction to the senior community became ground zero for comparative studies and innovation ideas. Learn how Paro is helping dementia patients.
A Companion Pup with a Heartbeat
Having a Golden Retriever pup became a lot easier with Companion Pup from Hasbro. It will ‘reply’ to its owner’s voice with a variety of puppy sounds. It will nuzzle fingers when touched on either side of its mouth. Stroking its back even gives a life-like heartbeat.
A Companion Cat that Meows & Blinks
Companion Cat by Hasbro meows when you walk by it. It will blink at the light and raise its paw too. Petting and hugging makes it purr softly. It can blink and look like it is about to nap when rubbed for a long time. This cat will even turn over its back to get a belly rub. Best of all, it does not need a sand box.
The sanitary risks that come with keeping real animal pets are not welcome. This is whether the senior is aging in place in their own home or they are living in an assisted living facility. There is no need to feed the robot after replacing its batteries. A little pet grooming is therapeutic, and robots only need the bare minimum.
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Unmistakable Therapeutic Effects
Robotic pets may be artificial platforms but the therapeutic effects are apparently real.
To an elderly, the robot pet creates a motivation to ‘care’. This ‘real’ need to look out for a pet is so effective that seniors develop a measure of attachment even with a robot pet. Caring appears to be beyond the feeding or the walking. It seems to be the physical presence and the sense of giving that creates the emotional bond. It becomes a ‘safe’ experience to share about or at least talk about too.
Hugging a robot pet that never gets tired is reassuringly routine. Petting and stroking the robot pet without getting allergies is a benefit. The safe, daily dose of reassuring touch therapy is an enormous benefit with very little cost. Talking becomes therapeutic even when it is to a robot pet that merely barks or purrs.
Robot pets will continue to improve the human condition especially among the elderly. It will continue to provide companionship without fatigue. It will not replace human friends though it may certainly come close to it.
Expanding on Medical Alert Systems
As robotic pets develop, one can envision that they will incorporate additional features like monitoring sensors and access to remote nursing help. This would complement or supersede what current medical alert systems are capable of doing.
A senior who has fallen and injured herself could summon her pet to come to her and connect her with a trained response agent who can assist her. The response agent could send an emergency alert to a local first responder or teleconference in the senior’s doctor or children. Robotic pets equipped with the right features could certainly allow more seniors to age in place in their own homes.