Olivia Saunders, a client in the Adult Day Services Program at Hillsborough County Aging Services, sits with her robotic dog named Honey.

Just a simple daily greeting towards one’s pet can bring about much joy and happiness whether it be a dog or a cat. Olivia Saunders, a client in the Adult Day Services Program at the Hillsborough County Aging Services can attest to that. Through the Robotic Pets Program, Olivia was gifted with a robotic dog, which she named Honey. The Adult Day Services Program provides the lifelike robotic pets, such as a dog or a cat, to clients who have Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

Elissa Bass, Hillsborough County Adult Day Services nurse manager, elaborated on the realistic features that the robotic pets portray.

“The robotic pets are battery-operated with built-in sensors that respond to a person’s presence and touch,” Bass said.

The Florida Department of Elder Affairs started this initiative in April 2020, which it funds to help support the program in Hillsborough County. With that in mind, it also partnered with Ageless Innovation’s Joy for All Companion Pets. These companion pets help the client combat with loneliness or depression by improving their overall mood and quality of life, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, it provides cognitive stimulation and companionship.

Through the Adult Day Services Program, a total of 19 robotic dogs and cats were distributed to the clients. The Florida Department of Elder Affairs has given out more than 7,000 of the robotic pets.

Betty Saunders, caregiver and daughter to her mom, Olivia, mentioned how appreciative she is in regard to this program.

“Thank you to the Adult Day Services Program in Hillsborough County for giving my mom her robotic dog, as it has helped her with dementia by providing comfort as well as bringing a smile to her face,” Betty said.

The Robotic Pets Program is open to not only the Hillsborough County Aging Services Clients but also anyone who resides in Hillsborough County meeting specific qualifications.

For more information, visit https://elderaffairs.org. If you have questions or need assistance, call Bass at 734-5763 or email basse@hillsboroughcounty.org.

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Tatiana Ortiz is a freelance writer with the Osprey Observer Newspaper. She began as an intern here in 2010 and has been writing since. Tatiana graduated from the University of South Florida in 2015. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communications with a concentration in Public Relations. In her free time, Tatiana enjoys photography, biking and being with her family.