There’s a new way that senior citizens are coping with the constant struggle of feeling isolated and disconnected from those around them. This isn’t just a quaint fad like adding more house plants or creating a video diary, either. In fact, the reality might sound like something straight out of a science fiction story rather than real life. However, it’s no fiction that lonely seniors are finding substantial comfort in a new line of robotic pets that are as lifelike and loveable as they are easy to care for.
A hard year for seniors
It can’t be denied that 2020 was hard for almost everyone. One demographic that definitely hasn’t gotten off easy through the COVID-19 pandemic is senior citizens. Preventative actions taken by friends and family members to keep them safe and physically healthy unfortunately left families no other option besides just not visiting grandma and grandpa for the time being. The depth of the mental health toll that this global event has taken on seniors is still yet to be fully unpacked.
Even before COVID, though, countless seniors were already dealing with varying levels of loneliness. Whether it’s because their family lives far away, or they might not even have any surviving relatives, or if it’s simply because they didn’t get enough visitors and struggle to get out of the house themselves, loneliness has already long been a pandemic among the elderly.
A human’s best friend
Many people, particularly those of previous generations, grew up with animals their whole life. Their constant presence not only teaches responsibility but also provides companionship. Although it’s hard to say how much a pet might understand about complex human thoughts and feelings, even for the cleverest canine, humans are very good at anthropomorphization – so that feeling that your dog understands every word you say will subconsciously be resonating anyway.
Having a pet and spending time with it by playing, grooming, and training has been shown to reduce stress and even lead to a longer lifespan. Those who have at least one furry companion are generally happier, and – yes – statistically less lonely. The physiology backs this up too: UCLA Health confirmed that when a person pets an animal, their brain gives off serotonin and prolactin – two hormones heavily associated with feeling good and having an elevated mood.
It’s all well and good that organic, living, breathing animals can give us that feel-good happy feeling and even brighten the lives of seniors who have lived through and contributed so much to society. But if a senior can no longer take care of a real pet, can they truly get the same mood life and sense of companionship from a well-crafted hunk of machinery dressed up to look cute and fuzzy?
The answer, overwhelmingly, seems to be yes.
A manageable companion
Unfortunately, many seniors become unable to maintain all the care duties for their pet like they used to, just as taking care of themselves becomes more of a struggle. Those who can’t afford to hire a housekeeper or petsitter to alleviate some of these duties might tragically end up having to part with their beloved fur baby.
With a robotic pet, there are virtually no care needs – unless you count recharging batteries or having something fixed or tuned up. Robotic pet owners don’t have to worry about cleaning up waste nor taking their pet on walks. There are no concerns with dander or other allergens, which makes this a great alternative for seniors with allergies. The only thing you have to do when you have a robotic pet is pet it when you need a pick-me-up – and that’s it.
This isn’t just a feel-good toy, either. These are true therapeutic tools with real benefits. Seniors who suffer from Alzheimer’s, for instance, can reduce their incidents of confusion and agitation if they have something soft, furry, and familiar close by. It’s the same for many of the other mental illnesses that plague the elderly. With these simple yet futuristic furry friends, the quality of life for seniors everywhere can be improved dramatically.