Robot pets for social care residents in Essex

County Council pioneers trial of robotic companies to help people living with dementia and learning disabilities 

Technology-enabled care (TEC) is big news at the moment, with all kinds of ingenious ways being found to use digital technology to support health and mental well-being. Essex County Council, which launched its care technology service in 2021 to improve health outcomes and support people’s independence.

Essex County Council adult social care employees with the robotic companion pets

Essex County Council adult social care employees with the robotic companion pets, photo courtesy of Essex County Council

Its latest venture is a pilot project to test the therapeutic benefits of robot pets for people living with dementia and learning disabilities. The project is led by the council’s adult social care team in Mid Essex.  

Robotic companion pets are being used in Essex, as part of a pilot project led by Essex County Council’s adult social care team in mid Essex

Photo courtesy of Essex County Council

The trial has already shown that robot pets provide a number of benefits, helping to reduce agitation and anxiety, creating a sense of purpose, and increasing engagement through playing and talking, particularly where caring for a living pet may be difficult. Social care teams have found that the pets also support good communication and person-centred practice. 

What’s more, staff and families can already see the positive impact. One Essex resident, Samantha, says: ‘When the robot cat was suggested by the Dementia Intensive Support team, I was hesitant of how grandma would respond. But as soon as she met the cat, she named her Rosie and loved her. 

‘Rosie took grandma back to the days when she had her own cat. It ignited all of her loving memories of caring for a cat which allowed grandma to remember the feelings of love and contentment. 

‘Rosie calmed her down during times when she was experiencing sundowning and provided her with a focus. For us as a family it filled our hearts to see grandma’s spark come back when she was talking about or to Rosie and we will be forever grateful for the comfort that Rosie gave her.’ 

Alison Ansell, Director of Adult Social Care for Mid Essex at Essex County Council, adds: ‘The advantages of caring for an animal are well-researched and whilst our robot companion animals are less furry than their real-life counterparts, they bring many of the same benefits to their owners. 

‘Through this innovative pilot, our teams are looking to aid independence, provide comfort and help those they work with to regain a sense of purpose and joy from their new robot pet. Using them to support our statutory interventions is an exciting opportunity and one that will bring real benefits to residents and their families.’ 

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