Companion robotic animals are on the rise. They help provide company for individuals living in long-term care, especially persons with dementia. They are particularly useful when residents might want some company and have limited visits from friends and family. They are also convenient as they do not require any day-to-day care, like animals do. They offer individuals with the opportunity to feel a sense of companionship and purpose in their lives.
(Retrieved from Moyle et al., 2016).
Robotic animals look, move, and sound similar to a real-life animal and individuals can engage with them to boost their social and emotional well-being (WHO, 2012). Studies have found that individuals with dementia experience an increase in relationships, relaxation, motivation, and socialization and a decrease in loneliness after engaging with robotic animals (Frennert & Ostlund, 2014; Kanamori et al., 2002; Moyle et al., 2013; Sellers, 2006; Wada & Shibata, 2007).
While these robotic pets can offer a variety of benefits for persons living with dementia, it's important to consider the price tag. Robotic pets are the most expensive, but if you're considering a realistic companion animal, there are other options. These alternatives offer different breeds that might look similar to a previous pet and might remind individuals of their own pet, offering a stronger sense of companionship.
PARO Robotic seals are very realistic and offer a variety of sensors to elicit emotional and social responses, but comes at a high price of $6400.
Ageless Innovation offer realistic Joy For All robotic animals, such as cats and dogs for $120.
Memorable Pets offer realistic stuffed animals for only $35.
Other options include Twiddle Cats that offer a variety of sensory materials for individuals to engage with for $45.
Does your loved one with dementia have a companion animal? Share in the comments below!
Frennert, S., & Ostlund, B. (2014) Review: seven matters of concern of social robots and older people. Int J Soc Robot 6:299–310
Kanamori, M., Suzuki, M., & Tanaka, M. (2002). Maintenance and improvement of quality of life among elderly patients using a pet-type robot. Nippon Ronen Igakkai Zasshi 39, 214–218.
Moyle, W., Cooke, M., Beattie, E., Jones, C., Klein, B., Cook, G., & Gray, C. (2013). Exploring the effect of companion robots on emotional expression in older people with dementia: A pilot RCT. Journal of Gerontological Nursing, 39, 46-53.
Moyle, W., Jones, C., Sung, B., Bramble, M., O'Dwyer, S., Blumenstein, M., & Estivill-Castro, V. (2016). What effect does an animal robot called CuDDler have on the engagement and emotional response of older people with dementia? A pilot feasibility study. International Journal of Social Robotics, 8(1), 145-156.
Sellers, D. M. (2006). The evaluation of an animal-assisted therapy intervention for elders with dementia in long-term care. Act Adapt Aging, 30, 61-77.
Wada K., & Shibata, T. (2007). Living with seal robots: its sociopsychological and physiological influences on the elderly at a care house. IEEE Trans Robot 23, 972–980.
World Health Organization (WHO), Alzheimer's Disease International (2012). Dementia. A public health priority. World Health Organization, Geneva.