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News

Robotic Cats Help Senior Citizens Ward Off Loneliness During COVID-19

Pam Forrester, Tallahassee Democrat
26.8.2020

“One of the best finds for combating these feelings are robo-pets. The power of these little 'cuddlers' is stunning..."

Robotic cats are helping ease anxiety and loneliness among seniors during the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown.

With these 21st century felines, there are no litter boxes to clean, vet bills to pay or food to purchase; these robotic cats only need an owner with an imagination, a welcoming lap and a battery.

With family visitations to their loved ones in nursing and assisted living facilities curtailed nationwide in mid-March, many residents are experiencing increased feelings of isolation and anxiety.

But families are finding robotic cats easing those feelings.

Robotic animals are not a new concept. Various toy researchers and manufacturers have crafted a variety of animals, such as cats, dogs and even a seal pup. But though they have been around for years, their purpose and importance have dramatically shifted during the pandemic. They may still look like childhood toys, but their function has evolved, to include the roles of companion and therapy pet.

Robotic cats bring comfort to residents at Tapestry

“Quarantine fatigue, loneliness, sadness, inertia and isolation during the pandemic hits all of us, but it’s especially hard among the elderly and even worse among those with dementia,” said Florida State University College of Nursing professor and certified traumatologist Sally Karioth.

“One of the best finds for combating these feelings are robo-pets. The power of these little 'cuddlers' is stunning. Research finds they lower blood pressure, help keep folks active and raises serotonin levels, but most significantly they reduce feelings of grief and sadness, and generally help boost positive mindsets.”

“I used to stop by several times a week to see my mom and on Thursdays she always loved to beat me at Bingo,” said Christine Reker, whose 89-year-old mother, Judy Coleman, suffers from dementia and has lived in an assisted living facility in Tallahassee for several years. “But I haven’t been able to visit for months and Mom called me dozens of times each day saying she was alone and afraid.”

Coleman had been living with her beloved pure white rescue cat, Caspar, but in early January the cat died.

“For 14 years that cat was Mom’s constant companion,” Reker said. “It went everywhere with her and slept right on the bed with her at night and never left her side.  Most days he snuggled right on her lap in her wheelchair.”

Reker’s sister, Lisa Rogers, the home care coordinator at Givens Highland Farms Life Planned Community, a multi-complex senior community in North Carolina, had an idea. She had seen firsthand how robotic cats transformed the lives of her residents.

89-year-old Judy Coleman, who is a resident at Tapestry Senior Living, pets her robotic cat named Silver. Her daughter got her the cat to help ease the loneliness she was suffering while being stuck in the facility without visitors due to the pandemic.
89-year-old Judy Coleman, who is a resident at Tapestry Senior Living, pets her robotic cat named Silver. Her daughter got her the cat to help ease the loneliness she was suffering while being stuck in the facility without visitors due to the pandemic. Alicia Devine/Tallahassee Democrat

Read the full story on Tallahassee Democrat

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