Robotic Pets bring comfort to the elderly

Local organizations innovate to help combat loneliness during the pandemic
Updated: May. 26, 2021 at 7:12 PM CDT
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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) - A year of COVID-19 brought many changes. For those in the workplace-working from home became a new norm. Many families didn’t see loved ones for weeks and months at a time. For our elderly population – they lost their weekly interaction at church or senior centers.

If you’ve ever had a pet in your home one thing is clear. The joy it provides.

SARCOA and First United Methodist Church of Dothan partnered together to give those in their Respite Care Ministry robotic cats and dogs.

Katie Holland, the Director of the Respite Care Ministry, said, “We’ve been so glad to add them into the program we really use them in the mornings cause sometimes the mornings are you know they’re more anxious they’re arriving they’re leaving their care giver and so that’s a time where a pet is soothing and calming.”

It barks, it wags its tail just like a normal pup, but most importantly it provides comfort for those who need it most. Tillie can no longer make it to the respite care program so she received a cat of her very own.

Holland said, “It’s kind of like an adoption program some prefer cats some prefer dogs, and so we try to place those pets in the appropriate homes.”

Tillie has dementia. Tillie Dempster, the recipient of the companion pet, said, “Ray how long we have this kittycat?”

At 93 years old, she and Ray have been married as long as they can remember. “62 years…. Oh I thought it was 100,” she said.

This past year, was a long one.

Ray Dempster, Tillie’s husband, said, “Especially during the pandemic here when we were not able to see anyone then you had the sense of comfort that the cat brought to us.”

Tillie said the cat, “Just sits in my lap and purr you know it’s calming and enjoyable you know, that’s all she does.”

Terri Francis, Director of Community Resources at SARCOA, said, “Even though it’s a mechanical pet they may not realize or they may realize… it doesn’t matter it’s providing them comfort.”

Mittens may be mechanical but, according to Ray, “It’s part of the family right.”

And the best part, “This is the only kind of cat we can have, the others get under your feet,” Tillie said.

The program was provided as an incentive from the Alabama Department of Senior Services to SARCOA to help fight isolation in seniors due to COVID.

Although all the pets have already been distributed, if you’re interested in one for your loved one SARCOA gets them from a company called Joy for All.

Copyright 2021 WTVY. All rights reserved.

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