ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (September 7, 2022) — A program launched by the Department of Elder Affairs (DOEA) to combat isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in real-life friendships for a group of seniors living at The Fountains at Boca Ciega Bay in St. Petersburg.
The seniors received robotic companion pets from the DOEA through a partnership with Ageless Innovation Joy for All®. What started as a few residents at the community having a robotic pet, has resulted in a group of more than 20 residents who walk the community with their pets and get together on a regular basis.
“The robotic pets have brought residents together in an interesting way,” said Delena Waters, Community Life Director at The Fountains at Boca Ciega Bay. “They’ve become a talking point among owners and seeing the pets around the community has prompted more residents to get one. In addition to being a great maintenance-free companion, they’re fun and entertaining and bring them joy.”
Resident Sue Quigley is one of the many residents at The Fountains who has a robotic pet. Quigley was an early adopter of the program and gained popularity at the community because of her pet.
“The dogs are quite interesting,” said Sue. “When you interact with them, they look at you. It’s impressive how they’re able to superimpose a way of thinking into something like that. For me, the robotic pet is less of a companion and more of a focal point for conversations with others. People who I’ve never spoken to before are now asking me for advice about their robotic pets.”
In the same way dog owners make friends at the dog park, these robotic pet owners are connecting over their companions.
“I’ve had people ask me if my dog makes noise when it storms, and how my dog interacts with me when I talk to it,” said Sue. “I think if you have the initiative to interact, it has the potential to do something for you. It’s been a great point of connection with my neighbors and a fun way to make friends.”
Resident interest in robotic pets piqued in April 2021, around the same time the community opened its dog park. Many residents expressed an interest in having a dog but didn’t want the upkeep that came with a pet. The community connected residents with the DOEA and helped them apply for the Therapeutic Robotic Pet Program.
The DOEA launched the Therapeutic Robotic Pet Program in April 2020 to enhance meaningful interactions among older adults, their caregivers, and family members. Through the DOEA’s partnership with Ageless Innovation, seniors received a free Joy for All® Companion Pet.
Studies have explored the positive effect of robotic pets on seniors and found that they can help combat loneliness or depression by improving overall mood and quality of life. They have also been found to help ease the behavioral symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Since launching the Therapeutic Robotic Pet Program, the DOEA has distributed more than 7,000 robotic pets to seniors in the state of Florida. And while the program ended in June 2022, the effects are still rippling through The Fountains at Boca Ciega Bay.
“Many of our robotic pet owners are former dog owners,” said Waters. “And beyond the social interaction these pets have provided them, they’re happy to enjoy a dog’s charms without the labors of upkeep.”
About The Fountains at Boca Ciega Bay
The Fountains at Boca Ciega Bay is a retirement community in St. Petersburg located at 1255 Pasadena Avenue South on a 14-acre waterfront property. The community offers independent living, assisted living and memory care, with short and long-term skilled nursing and rehabilitation at The Springs, an on-site health center operated by Summit Care. The Fountains’ vibrant lifestyle includes multiple dining options, an extensive calendar of events, outings, classes, clubs and fitness opportunities. Managed by Watermark Retirement Communities, The Fountains at Boca Ciega Bay is committed to creating an extraordinary community where people thrive. For more information, visit bocaciegabay.watermarkcommunities.com.
About Watermark Retirement Communities®
Watermark creates extraordinary and innovative communities where people thrive. We believe aging is about renewal rather than retirement. Watermark communities are known for highly trained and caring associates, a lifestyle built on choice, fine amenities, integrative wellness and innovative programs including the award-winning Watermark University featuring a wide variety of engaging classes for residents and area seniors. Watermark has been named in the top 25 Best Workplaces for Aging Services in a national program conducted by the Great Place to Work Institute and published on Fortune.com. A privately held company with a reputation for over 30 years for service, innovation, integrity and financial stability, Watermark manages more than 70 retirement communities in 22 states coast to coast. Based in Tucson AZ, Watermark is ranked as the nation’s 9th-leading senior housing operator by the American Seniors Housing Association. Visit watermarkcommunities.com for more information.