ALBANY, N.Y. (April 10, 2020)—To help combat social isolation and depression among older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, the Association on Aging in New York (AgingNY), in partnership with award-winning robotic pet manufacturer Ageless Innovation, is distributing up to 1,100 robotic Joy for All Companion Pets to those most at-risk for social isolation.
“Social isolation was already a serious public health problem for older individuals who have limited social connections, and the COVID-19 virus has made this problem exponentially worse,” said Executive Director Becky Preve. “Social isolation also puts older adults at greater risk for a number of physiological issues such as decline in mobility, heart disease including heart attack, stroke, and high blood pressure, cognitive decline, infectious illness, and chronic illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes. We are so grateful for this partnership with Ageless Innovation and are excited to work alongside their team to deliver pets to those who will benefit from their companionship.”
It is well known that social isolation disproportionately affects older adults, many of whom often only have social contact out of the home at community venues or places of worship. Those who do not have close family or friends and rely on the support of community services are at additional risk, along with those who are already lonely or isolated.
While social distancing and Matilda’s Law were put in place to slow the physical effects of COVID-19, they also have the unintended effect of heightening the risk of social isolation and loneliness even more, ultimately leaving older adults and caregivers looking for solutions to provide comfort, companionship, and joy in this time of physical absence.
“The unfortunate reality is that the necessary protective measures put in place to protect older adults from the spread of COVID-19 also serve to further isolate them from friends and family,” said Ted Fischer, co-founder and CEO, Ageless Innovation. “We are overjoyed to work alongside AgingNY and the New York State Office for the Aging to ensure that hundreds of our aging loved ones can continue to find comfort, companionship, and joy with our Joy for All pets during this critical time.”
Joy for All Companion Pets allow socially isolated older adults to receive similar gratification and comfort that they would from live pets by calming anxiety, decreasing loneliness, and providing a better quality of life—without needing to worry about food or vet bills.
“This pandemic has impacted the entire aging network and we are working tirelessly to address ongoing concerns, including social isolation,” said Greg Olsen, Acting Director of the New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA). “We are utilizing innovative ways to combat the public health emergency of social isolation and loneliness, and the robotic pet project has extensive evidence showing the overwhelming value to the older population. Expanding the access to these pets will help thousands of older New Yorkers by offering companionship.”
In 2019, New York State became the first state in the nation to test these pets with isolated community-based older adults. New York piloted 60 Joy for All Companion Pets (30 cats and 30 pups) with socially isolated older adults living at home in 12 counties across the state. Pilot participants were identified using a six-item loneliness scale. Robotic cats and pups are usually given to people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias as a form of calming pet therapy, but data has shown that using pets to decrease social isolation is highly successful—70% of pilot participants reported a decrease or significant decrease in isolation after one year.
AgingNY, NYSOFA, and Ageless Innovation recognize that the benefits of companionship extend to many who aren't directly impacted by this program. It is with this in mind that we would like to offer a 20% discount to all families facing the challenges of social isolation during this time. Those interested in learning more about these pets can visit joyforall.com and use code NYS20 at checkout between now and June 30, 2020.