Most seniors know the happiness pets can give them, but at the same time, they know the stress and anxiety that comes with having an animal they must care for.
Loneliness and isolation can be exacerbated during the stay-in-place directives of many countries, regions, and municipalities put in place due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This can be especially hard on seniors, especially those who live alone. This is where technology can help.
Technology is improving the lives of the older population through innovations including robotic animals that provide care and companionship to older adults. If a robotic pet isn’t for you, consider new apps and devices that make caring for and interacting with live pets easier and better than ever.
Whether you get a real animal or a robotic one, you’ll have a longer, happier, and healthier retirement due to these creative and caring advances in technology.
Benefits of pet ownership/interaction
Pets bring many benefits to their senior owners. According to the National Poll on Healthy Aging 2019, pets help older adults cope with mental and physical health issues, get active, and connect with others. What’s more, living with a pet can help you establish a routine, increase life satisfaction, reduce doctor visits, lower blood pressure, reduce cardiovascular disease risk, and lower cholesterol.
However, some seniors can’t own an animal because they either don’t have enough money, can’t look after it properly, or they have an allergy. The good news is you don’t need to own one to get the positive effects. You can interact with pets in other ways, such as by getting to know your neighbor’s or family member’s pets, volunteering at an animal shelter or rescue organization, going to a pet store, or visiting a dog or cat café.
If you want an animal companion but cannot care for a real one, then a robotic pet is for you. These lifelike pets can interact with people by purring or barking, moving their heads, and wagging their tails in response to their owners. Just like real animals, robotic pets can help reduce loneliness, stress, and anxiety in older adults. The best examples of these are the Joy For All Companion Cat and Pup by Ageless Innovation and the baby harp seal named Paro.
Moreover, robotic pets used in nursing homes and assisted living facilities as a form of treatment for seniors with dementia produced positive results. For example, an Australian study led by Professor Wendy Moyle from the Menzies Health Institute at Griffith University in Queensland found that Paro had a soothing effect on dementia patients, as well as encouraging activity and socialization.
Pet apps and devices
If you own a real dog, there are pet apps and devices that can help you look after it. For example, the Inupathy device can tell you how your dog is feeling by interpreting their heart rate and displaying their mood in five colors—stressed (purple), interested (beige), relaxed (green), happy (rainbow), and excited (red). Simply strap the 100 g device to your dog’s back with the heart rate sensor on the belt positioned underneath their belly. You can also use the companion app to track how your dog has been feeling by creating a log and comparing them to previous weeks and months. Inupathy will be available soon.
On the other hand, Go Dogo is a smart-home device that utilizes artificial intelligence to use positive reinforcement to exercise your dog’s mind. The device is placed above a TV screen and releases treats when your dog completes a task ordered by an AI instructor. The game lasts for 20 minutes. You can use it to train your dog if you’re unable to for any reason. Moreover, you can control the system through the companion app, which allows you to schedule training and follow your dog’s progress. Go Dogo can be pre-ordered through the official website.
Should you use pet technology?
Pet ownership and interaction provide extensive health benefits to older adults. However, as you age, caring for a pet can become increasingly difficult. That’s where robotic animal companions and pet apps and devices can help.
Robotic animals can delight, soothe, and promote happiness in seniors without any of the responsibility of caring for a pet, whereas devices such as Inupathy and Go Dogo and their companion apps make it easier for you to look after a real animal. So why not give pet tech a try? It’ll do you a world of good.
I love this @cshaffstall! Pets can help to contribute to our energy, health and overall happiness. Any way that seniors can have a pet whether it's real or virtual, will give them something to love and focus on. Thanks so much for sharing!
Agree on the pets. Mine have been such a source of entertainment for us in these crazy days. Animals know so much more about us than we realize. Letting them do their role as a companion and comforter during this time gives Kathi and I a break from the intensity of the day-to-day stresses of the brick-n-mortar owner these days.
Totally agree @JMPepper! My boy is a very active Cairn Terrier and he gets us out for walks every day which really helps with stress relief. We're lucky to have our pets!
I fall into the low end of the seniors' category. If it weren't for my two older boxers dragging me 'round the three-mile loop every morning, I might never see the light of day. The responsibility of caring for our pets, especially as they get older is daunting for senior-seniors, more so as they age and become frailer. Technology may be challenging, but it can also be rewarding.