Ela Library brings robotic pets to local seniors

As an alternative to pet therapy, Ela Area Public Library's Outreach Services has introduced a new breed: robotic animals.

Four dogs and cats have added a personalized and playful experience to the library's outreach initiative that includes book talks, delivery of materials and special programming geared for seniors and people with dementia.

"Everyone loves them," said Liz Kristan, Ela Library's Outreach Services coordinator. "I've never seen our participants so engaged."

The lifelike companion pets were created by Joy for All, a company that is devoted to developing fun and engaging products for older adults. Purchased in February, the pets debuted at various senior living facilities in the community this spring, as well as at Memory Café, a program held at the library for those with memory issues and their care partners.

"The residents at our outreach sites named them, so now each one has its own tag and carrier to transport them to and from each site," Kristan said. "They move, respond to touch and make noise just like a real pet. You hear a lot of meowing and woofs."

Additionally, EAPL has plans to use the pets for other special needs groups.

"We hope to have them available for more programs in the near future," Kristan said.

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