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Robot pets to help NC seniors with loneliness during pandemic

“The coronavirus has been difficult for everyone, but in terms of isolation, it has been devastating for many seniors in our community,” Melissa Smith said.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Senior citizens in the Triad are being given robot pets to help with loneliness they may be experiencing because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Winston-Salem organization Senior Services said the pets are especially helpful for seniors living with memory loss and dementia and are being delivered to 30 older adults enrolled in their Williams Adult Day Center, Home Care, Meals-on-Wheels, and Living-at-Home programs.

“The coronavirus has been difficult for everyone, but in terms of isolation, it has been devastating for many seniors in our community,” Melissa Smith, director of innovation and initiatives said.

While the pets are not a replacement for human connection, Smith hopes having a furry friend to pet and interact with will ease the loneliness many Senior Services participants are experiencing.

“They will help reduce caregiver stress by providing seniors—especially people living with memory loss, an opportunity to engage in the positive feelings associated with caring for a pet. The opportunity to comb its fur, scratch its ears, pet and love on it, which will help to soothe and calm participants and even provide them with some fun, laughs, and joy,” Smith said.

The nonprofit agency said the pets’ realistic feeling fur, sounds, and movements have shown to be especially useful and enjoyable to older adults who are no longer physically able to care for live animals.