DAVENPORT, Iowa - Some nursing home residents in Iowa have their own version of pet therapy. But their pets need to be powered up before they can bark and purr.
"It has enriched my life, you cannot believe how much," retirement home resident Barb Thede told KWQC. "We have a new hair dresser, and she advertised that she would streak hair any color you wanted it. But it washes out, so I decided I would do it again. This time I took my cat with me. I said, 'Do you think you could streak the cat right here?'"
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Robot pets are giving life a new spark for Ridgecrest residents and the caretakers are grateful, too. "I know how happy she is with the cat, and that's what I like. Right? Virginia and I have become close," said caretaker Cindy Poppens.
Where it might have gotten lonely before, now there's a friend for residents. "When a person is in a room by themselves basically, it's nice to have something that you feel is there with you. The sounds, the purring, the mewing seems to be very soothing," said Clair Odell, whose daughter owns a robotic cat.
"There, now look - she wants her tummy rubbed. So you're reading a book or watching the television and you have the little cat on your lap, so you don't feel so alone," said Thede.
Odell remembers the first time he met his daughter's pet. "When we went to see her and her new cat, the excitement and the joy that she had when she was showing it off and showing off its antics," said Odell.
Odell knows it can be hard relating to other residents at times. "Being a younger person in a nursing home is kind of difficult for her to have people to relate to or something to relate to, and this gives her something to relate to all the time."
Nursing home officials say the next generation of robotic pets should be able to do even more, including reminding residents about taking their meds and going to their appointments.