Difference Makers: Robotic pets helping elderly adults overcome loneliness amid pandemic


NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — The pandemic has made isolation for older people much worse, but pets can help dramatically – even if they aren’t real.

Christa Treitmeir Meditz says her mother, Anni, has been stuck in isolation amid the pandemic, so to help ease the loneliness, she was given a robotic cat named Raymond.

“Raymond is the electronic cat that was given to my mother, who is a dementia patient, to help keep her company during COVID,” says Treitmeir Meditz.

Lorraine Cortes Vazquez, commissioner of the New York City Department of Aging, says electronic pets are a great way to help the older generation without the responsibility of a real animal.

“New York City and New York state are very committed to older adults,” the commissioner said. “And are constantly looking for innovations to address the needs of older adults.”

The pets are proven to reduce isolation, and New York State purchased about 1,000 at $100 each to be distributed to elderly people living alone amid the pandemic.

The results have been very encouraging, says Treitmeir Meditz.

“If you give her a book, she’ll just look at the same page over and over and over again,” she says of her mother. “Whereas, when she’s with Raymond, she pets him, she talks to him, she picks him up.”

She says while Raymond may not be alive, he certainly acts like a typical cat.

“He meows, he purrs, he can go on his back,” she says. “He can do basically everything a real live cat would do.”

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