Robotic pets helping assisted living patients


Some nursing home residents in Iowa have their own version of pet therapy, but these pets need to be powered up before they bark and purr.

“It has enriched my life, you cannot believe how much,” says Barb Thede, retirement home resident.

Robot pets are giving life a new spark for Ridgecrest residents.

“We have a new hair dresser, and she advertised that she would streak hair any color you wanted it. But it washes out, so I decided I would do it again,” Thede says. “This time I took my cat with me. I said, ‘Do you think you could streak the cat right here?'”

And the caretakers are grateful, too.

“I know how happy she is with the cat, and that’s what I like. Right? Virginia and I have become close,” says caretaker Cindy Poppens.

Where it might have been lonely before, now there’s a friend.

“When a person is in a room by themselves basically, it’s nice to have something that you feel is there with you. The sounds, the purring, the mewing seems to be very soothing,” says Clair Odell, whose daughter owns a robotic cat.

“There, now look – she wants her tummy rubbed. So you’re reading a book or watching the television and you have the little cat on your lap, so you don’t feel so alone,” Thede says.

Odell remembers the first time he met his daughter’s pet.

“When we went to see her and her new cat, the excitement and the joy that she had when she was showing it off and showing off its antics,” Odell said.

And he knows it can be hard relating to other residents at times.

“Being a younger person in a nursing home is kind of difficult for her to have people to relate to or something to relate to, and this gives her something to relate to all the time,” Odell says.

And Barb says it has brought miracles to their community.

“It is peace. She’s saying goodbye, she’s saying thank you to you,” she says.

Nursing home officials say the next generation of robotic pets should be able to do even more.

That includes reminding residents about taking their meds and going to their appointments.

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