Robotic pets provide comfort, companionship to seniors in West Bloomfield nursing home

The COVID-19 pandemic’s toll on seniors in nursing homes included an increase in depression as they were isolated and unable to have guests.

"The toll on the residents was an increase in depressive symptoms," said Scott Jackson, the director of West Bloomfield Health and Rehabilitation. "Especially in our alert and oriented patients."

West Bloomfield Health and Rehab was one of nearly 30 nursing homes in Metro Detroit to get robotic cats and dogs designed to alleviate isolation and bring joy to residents. 

"This is Cookie. He does a lot for me. It makes my day," said resident Gladys Marcum. "He makes me think there’s something good going on today."

Gladys Marcum with her robotic dog, Cookie.

With the support of grant funding, the Area Agency on Aging 1-B had the idea to get interactive and life-like robotic pets into nursing homes.

"We are making efforts to reduce social isolation and to enrich the lives of residents who live there," said Mary Katsarelas, with the agency. "Residents have been in isolation for over a year without seeing family, friends, and as a result we’ve seen an increase in depression, anxiety, insomnia."

The agency is also delivering other items, such as therapy dolls, tablets, and music players that play recordings that can help residents recall happy moments from their past.

Naurice Riley dances to music that she said brings her back.

"It most certainly takes me back," said resident Naurice Riley.

Click here to learn more about the Area Agency on Aging 1-B.