Robotic pets helps seniors reduce stress and feelings of loneliness

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Researchers found mild to moderate dementia patients who interacted with a robotic pet three times a week had lower levels of stress, anxiety and depression.

When caregiver Geri Lee stops by to visit clients, she brings 91-year-old Lena Haberman of La Mirada some cuddly, canine comfort. A robotic golden retriever named Rudy.

Lee is part of a Southern California company that is sending their caregivers out with robotic pets.

"Any diversion for seniors that have dementia or Alzheimer's is fantastic," Lee said.

"This is good for people like me who live alone," Haberman said.

Haberman and Rudy hit it off.

Toy maker Hasbro manufactures these mechanical companions that sell for $120.

The non-medical living assistance service, Visiting Angels, just started bringing this robotic retriever along on visits.

"You can actually feel its heart beat," Lee said. "And the more you talk to it, the more it moves and barks."

In a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, researchers found mild to moderate dementia patients who interacted with a robotic pet three times a week had lower levels of stress, anxiety and depression.

This allowed providers to decrease the use of medications.

"It's really important that we introduce something like this to our clients," Lee said.

But there are many things robotic companions can't do. They can't get your bedroom slippers. They can't lick your face and they can't mess up your house.

And for those of you who prefer a feline friend, there is a cat version available.

If a senior would like to keep the pets permanently, they'll have to purchase their own.

Rudy offers nonstop interaction and Haberman thinks the robot pet will provide another benefit: keeping her warm at night.
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