by Becky GINOS
LAYTON—There is a reason dogs are called “man’s best friend.” Those canine companions mean a lot to their owners but they’re not always practical for seniors. That’s why local caregivers have enlisted the help of robotic dogs called “Golden Pups” to provide the love and comfort of a pet without all the fuss.
“Our seniors are lonely in their homes,” said Tosha Martin, owner of the senior in-home care company Visiting Angels in Layton. “If they’ve had pets they had to care for them and walk them. But they pose fall risks. I’m excited about these (dogs), especially if they’ve lost an animal this is another form of comfort without worrying about all the care.”
Golden Pups have life-like movements such as moving their head, wagging their tail, and blinking their eyes. They also turn toward voices and respond with realistic noises like a cry or a bark and have a heartbeat effect that can be felt when their back is petted, according to material provided.
“It’s a great things for seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s,” said Martin. “It calms them and gives them something to do. It helps when they’re anxious or depressed. This type of pet therapy can cut down on pain medication and anti-depressants to have that comfort.”
Martin said research shows the robotic pets reduce loneliness in seniors living in post acute and long-term assisted living centers and nursing homes. “A joint study done by the University of Nebraska and the University of Texas found the dogs lowered the blood pressure and heart rate of Alzheimer’s patients,” she said. “Brown University researchers are trying to see how they can expand the Golden Pups to give medication reminders and fetch glasses.”
The robotic dogs launched in 2015 and have received major accolades across the senior care industry, she said. “I’ve worked in this field for 29 years and this is a great program. I’m super excited to be a part of it.”
Visiting Angels will have a dog available for staff to take out on client visits, said Martin. “People can also buy them. We can take one out and demonstrate it to the client’s family and show how it helps calm them down and become engaged when they are depressed or anxious,” she said. “They give peace of mind to families that their loved one has something there.”
Martin said Visiting Angels is always looking for new ideas and ways to help their clients and their families. “Anything we can do to help bring comfort, peace and give them something to look forward to we like to do that. We love what we do.”