(BPT) - Feeling a sense of connection and belonging with others is a basic human need. But unfortunately for many older adults, social isolation and loneliness are on the rise, especially because of the necessary social distancing since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
The good news is, there are concrete strategies that caregivers and family members alike can take to bring more joy and a sense of play to the lives of the older adults they care about — especially for those who may be coping with cognitive decline, dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Many older people could benefit from a focus for their affection, such as a pet, but are no longer capable of caring for one due to the often-strenuous daily responsibilities or costs associated. Whether you live near or far, providing your loved one with the gift of companionship can make all the difference in their lives.
Pets with purpose
To help alleviate loneliness and feelings of isolation, Ageless Innovation created the award-winning line of Joy for All Companion Pets — life-like animatronic animals that help aging adults foster essential social connections, improve their emotional health and well-being and bring joy into their lives.
Recent research conducted by UnitedHealthcare, AARP Services, and more shows that the introduction of robotic companion pets is helping to improve the quality of life for older adults as it relates to depression, loneliness, social isolation and all forms of dementia. Nearly a dozen studies showed that the Joy for All Companion Pets had meaningful positive impact on recipients.
Key findings of these studies reveal:
- Use of robotic companion pets enhance the well-being and quality of life of individuals with dementia
- Companion pets showed a significant reduction in agitation and social isolation, improving quality of life for both patients and family members
- Robotic pets may be a feasible way to mitigate behavioral disturbances in patients experiencing ICU delirium
- Companion pets are beneficial to decreasing feelings of loneliness
How companion pets make a difference
One insight from the research was that older adults wanted interactive, two-way companionship, so the need for pets that could give love and receive it influenced the design of these companion pets.
Built-in sensors allow them to respond to touch, allowing them to react to their environment. The Companion Pet Cat features VibraPurr technology, mimicking the feeling and sound of a realistic cat purr; and the Companion Pet Pup features built-in BarkBack technology that responds to voices with playful puppy-like sounds.
The real impact of Companion Pets
Patti LaFleur (@MissPatticake on Instagram) gave a Joy for All Companion Pet Pup to her mother Linda, who suffers from dementia, to help ease her feelings of isolation when she couldn't be there. Her mother named her new companion pup “Popcorn.”
“I gave Mom someone to talk with and love on and care for,” explained LaFleur. “My mom was always a nurturer, but in her dementia world she wasn’t able to care for others in the same way. But with Popcorn she could. She could love, cuddle, nurture and support her.”
LaFleur’s Instagram posts include lots of pictures of her smiling mother with her beloved companion pet.
Bringing joy and a vital sense of play into aging adults’ lives
Finding ways to improve the lives of older adults through play and a sense of connection is vital to their overall well-being. Using approaches ranging from games, crafts and activities to exploring ways to connect virtually can all help to enrich the lives of aging adults who may be feeling isolated right now.
Providing a life-like animal companion is another highly meaningful way to add joy to an older adult’s life.
“Developed with extensive input from older adults, Joy for All Companion pets look, sound and feel like real pets, but without the responsibilities of pet ownership,” said Ted Fischer, CEO and co-founder of Ageless Innovation. “Giving a Companion Pet Cat or Pet Pup can add a lot of fun and a sense of companionship to your loved one’s life.”