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Robotic pets
Posted February 9, 2021 | 11:21 AM

Robotic Pets Offer Friendly Companionship to Aging Services Clients

Lifelike dogs and cats decrease depression, combat isolation

Olivia Saunders walks by her dog Honey most mornings and offers it a sweet greeting.

While watching television, she pets Honey and talks to it. Honey fills Olivia with calmness and brings her a smile.

What is so special about Honey? It isn't a real dog. It's a lifelike robotic pet offered to clients in the Adult Day Services Program at Hillsborough County Aging Services.

The County's Adult Day Services Program has provided 19 robotic dogs and cats to clients since it started the program in the summer of 2020.

The robotic pets offer companionship and cognitive stimulation. They're proven to decrease depression and combat isolation, especially during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The County's Adult Day Services Program offers the robotic pet to a client who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or dementia.

While it is a robotic dog or cat, the pet seems very real. It is soft with plush fabric. It can move, and it makes animal noises. For instance, the robotic dogs pick up on light and movement and have a light bark.

It is safe for the client. The client can hold it, pet it, and sit it on their lap. The battery pack is concealed.

For the caregivers, the robotic pet is a tool to help engage their family member. The caregiver doesn't have to worry about having to feed the pet, taking it to a veterinarian, or walking it.

The Florida Department of Elder Affairs started the program in 2020. It funds and helps support the program in Hillsborough County.

The County's Adult Day Services Program continues to enroll more people in the Robotic Pets Program.

If someone isn't affiliated with the Adult Day Services Program, the County can help them apply to receive a robotic pet. The person can qualify if they live in Hillsborough County and has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's or a related disorder.

For more information, contact Hillsborough County's Aging Services Department Customer Care Team at (813) 272-5250.

Photo: Olivia Saunders shares a quiet time with her robotic pet Honey.

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