To help older residents, especially those living with dementia, East Suffolk Council has recently purchased 20 companion pets which are being given to local dementia groups and care homes across the district.
This project is one of more than 30 in the Council’s Covid Community Recovery Plan.
The pets, which are robotic cats and dogs, provide the interactive companionship associated with owning a pet which can be therapeutic for many people, especially those living with dementia. Animal therapy is widely recognised to bring calm and comfort to people with dementia and these realistic ‘robopets’ are a practical alternative to introducing live animals into a residential home, whilst still providing the same benefits.
The robopets were first piloted at the Memory Lane Group in Felixstowe and proved such a hit there that they have been rolled out across the district.
Cllr Letitia Smith, cabinet member for Communities, Leisure and Tourism said: “Companion pets are shown to help improve the wellbeing of older people and those living with dementia, and it is wonderful to hear back from local support groups about the joy and comfort this simple scheme is bringing to people across East Suffolk."
One pair of companion pets has been delivered to Admiral Nurse Mindy Mortimer at Sole Bay Health Centre in Reydon. Supported by Dementia UK, Admiral Nurses provide life-changing support for families affected by dementia.
Another pair has been given to Glebe House in Hollesley, delivered by Cllr James Mallinder, East Suffolk’s cabinet member for the Environment and Deben ward councillor.
Two pets have been given to the Pear Tree Centre in Halesworth, and another pair to the Forget Me Not Café in Kesgrave, a small charity group which runs weekly café sessions free of charge for those with dementia and their carers.
Kevin Vaughan, Chief Executive at the Pear Tree Fund said: “We would like to thank East Suffolk Council for allowing us to adopt Freckles, our fantastic robodog who is proving incredibly popular with visitors to the Pear Tree Centre. He will soon by joined by Tuxedo the cat, who is also being generously loaned to us by the council.
“Evidence shows that spending time with animals can have a hugely beneficial impact on wellbeing, but unfortunately not everyone is able to have their own pet. A robopet is the perfect solution as it provides comfort, companionship and familiarity, especially to those who have physical disabilities, have been bereaved or have dementia or other cognitive impairments.
“We have seen some really lovely reactions when people have met Freckles and are delighted by the impact he is having. Several of the people we support have even gone onto buy their own robopet after spending time with him so that they can continue to benefit at home.
“Anyone who would like to borrow a robopet should speak to one of our staff who would be happy to arrange it.”
Sue, from the Forget Me Not Cafe said: “The cat is extremely popular and has been a very relaxing and a calming influence for those that are really interested. There are two ladies who are very fond of it. A lady who is partially sighted constantly talks to it and is so happy, the difference it has made to her is amazing. Her daughter tells us she never wants to attend but the moment she mentions the cat, her mother’s whole attitude changes.
“The dog is not so popular at present, this may be because one of our volunteers has a pet dog which she brings on the days she comes and as you can imagine, more clients are really happy to sit and talk to it.”