Game Changer Life-Like Therapy Pets Reside At Delray Senior Living Community

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By: Callie Schiffman Contributing Writer

It’s raining robotic cats and dogs at Abbey Delray, a senior living community. These robopets help provide communication between seniors, who suffer from memory loss, and their families. There are two different types of pets. There is a labrador retriever dog and a cat, which comes in white, silver, and orange.

Anne Walsh, senior vice president for Lifespace Communities, which owns Abbey Delray, said she was approached months ago by Hasbro about the idea of having these companion pets in their senior living communities. Walsh said she was very excited about the response she received from the people living in Abbey.

“They fell in love with them right away. They light up and become highly engaged,” Walsh said.

Walsh describes how it was fairly easy getting funding for this project because of the great response they had from residents. She had tested the animals for a couple of months, but after seeing the response from the residents she secured funding to have the companion pets at Abbey Delray. She said they have robotic pets at six of their living communities, including Abbey Delray and Abbey Delray South.

Each pet moves and responds to the person who interacts with the pet. The cat purrs and lies on its back, while the dog barks and wags its tail. Each pet costs around $99-$119.

The robotic cats and dogs were initially used for seniors who suffered from memory loss. The pets help them engage with their family members by helping them remember pets they have had in the past.

One of the residents named her robotic labrador Rusty after her own dog she had growing up.

Each resident who interacts with the pet, becomes invested. They smile and start talking to the pet. They care for the pet as if it were real.

“The impact the robotic pets have had on our residents has truly been remarkable,” Walsh said. “As crazy as it might sound, these little robodogs and robocats are changing lives.”

Lori Eisele, Life Enrichment and Engagement Lead at Abbey Delray, said they give the robotic pets to residents who are 100 years old. She also said that for people who do not own a robotic pet, she walks around with them at 2:00 p.m. on Thursdays.

Eisele said she really sees the difference the pets are making during those weekly visits.

“The response is just amazing. These pets help with communication,” Eisele said. “The animals bring back memories and help with reminiscing.”

Another resident at Abbey Delray named her labrador Liberty after she received the dog on Fourth of July. She knits sweaters and pants for Liberty to wear.

Some members of the living community, like Liberty’s owner, loved these pets so much that their family members bought one for them.

Vicki Brown, the Abbey Delray Health Center administrator is delighted that the living residents are so taken with the robotic pets.

“It’s wonderful to see the smiles on the faces of residents as they interact with the robotic pets,” Brown said. “They provide a little something extra to look forward to each day.”