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Reducing loneliness and improving well-being among older adults with animatronic pets

Author(s)

TKATCH Rifky, et al

Publisher(s):

Taylor and Francis

Background: Studies consistently demonstrate that older adults who are lonely have higher rates of depression and increased mortality risk. Pet ownership may be a solution for loneliness; however, challenges related to pet ownership exist for older adults. Therefore, researchers and practitioners are examining the use of animatronic pets to reduce loneliness. Objective: To determine the feasibility of an animatronic pet program, and whether ownership of animatronic pets would decrease loneliness and improve well-being among lonely older adults. Methods: Eligible individuals were identified as lonely through a prior survey. Participants were provided with the choice of an animatronic pet and completed T1/T2/T3 surveys. Results: Attrition was high; 168 (63%) participants completed T1/T2 surveys, and 125 (48%) also completed a T3 survey. Post survey data indicated that loneliness decreased, while mental well-being, resilience, and purpose in life improved. Frequent interactions with the pets were associated with greater improvement in mental well-being and optimism. Conclusions: Animatronic pets appear to provide benefits for the well-being of lonely older adults. Future studies should employ randomized controlled designs examining the impact of animatronic pets. (Edited publisher abstract)


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