I must admit that when I first unpacked Hasbro’s JOY FOR ALL Companion Pets, I was a little skeptical. The plush dog and cat are so lifelike, it was like unwrapping a puppy at Christmas. But once I turned on the animatronic pets, I was mesmerized. The responsive, motion-censored animals came to life – and so did my quiet office! People came from across the building to see what the fuss was about. When we introduced the pets to a group of five Independent Living residents chatting over coffee, we have the same reaction. I knew these would be a hit in our communities when I saw their eyes light up and heard their playful stories of past pets.
Brookdale is dedicated to identifying technology and services that enrich the lives of our residents. When our Innovation team first saw the JOY FOR ALL pets, we saw enormous potential of collaborating with Hasbro and leveraging their expertise in bringing new and creative experiences to our residents and families. The robotic pets are a perfect product for our Clare Bridge programming, which serves people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia, because there is “no litterbox, just love.”
We were able to get pets into many of our communities and offer a Brookdale discount for our residents, families and associates – and the feedback is overwhelmingly positive. So much so, that we now have more than 125 pets in our Alzheimer’s and dementia care communities. The pets provide comfort for our residents, and conjure up memories of pets they’ve had throughout their lives. I love seeing them talking sweetly to the cat and petting the dog. I even met a resident who frequently gets agitated in the afternoons. After she received the JOY FOR ALL cat, she became calm and relaxed. She now takes “Otis” everywhere she goes.
I spoke with Juliet Holt Klinger, Brookdale’s senior director of dementia care, about why these pets are so effective for people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
“The primary impact we see in our residents living with dementia is a reduction in feelings of anxiousness,” said Holt Klinger. “The Companion Pets really provide us with an opportunity to stimulate more positive nurturing emotions. The pets have a true calming, playful effect and we find they can serve as a great distraction from feelings of distress.”
Holt Klinger admits to the same hesitations I had about introducing animatronic pets into our communities. But she agrees; if it makes our residents happy, it doesn’t really matter if they aren’t real.
“We have a strong commitment to avoiding anything fake or deceiving in our environments,” says Holt Klinger. “We encourage our residents to bring their live pets to the communities, but this isn’t always possible. The Companion Pets are a perfect substitute that everyone loves – whether they think it is real or not – it works for all.”
Hasbro is committed to “fun for all ages,” which aligns well with our mission of enriching lives. Together, I am excited to find new ways we can bring joy to our residents, their families and our associates. Companion Pets are only the beginning.