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Robotic pets helping to decrease loneliness

Updated: Jun. 8, 2021 at 8:53 AM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - Many of us have felt lonely during the pandemic, but for seniors in assisted living, the past year has been especially isolating. But the interactive companionship of a special kind of pet, is helping.

Meet … My Love. Yes, that’s her name. She looks and sounds like a real dog, but she’s not. She’s one of two dozen life-like, robotic therapy pets, at this skilled nursing facility.

“I hug her, give her a kiss, tell her I love her, and it makes me feel real happy,” shared Kim Turner, a nursing facility resident.

The dog and cat therapy pets have built-in sensors that respond to touch and voice. There are also built-in speakers allowing them to pant, woof, bark, and purr.

For resident Joe Ingram, it’s especially comforting. The dog reminds him of a collie, that was given to his son, who died of cancer.

“Well, it brings back the past for me and I feel good because I feel it seems like I have a connection there,” said Joe.

The pets have been important therapy during the isolation brought on by the pandemic.

“They bring them joy, they’re comforting, they’re soothing, they help reduce depression and just overall, they’re a healthy distraction,” explained Aaranisa Clay, LLMSW, Director of Social Work at West Bloomfield Health and Rehabilitation Center in West Bloomfield, Michigan.

The residents can ask to play with the pets whenever they want, making them feel less cut off from loved ones.

The robotic pets cost about $130 each. The nursing home received them through a state grant.

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