Robotic pets helping people in San Diego with dementia - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Robotic pets helping people in San Diego with dementia

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SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) — Some furry friends are bringing a lot of smiles to senior health center in North County San Diego, but these animal companions actually run on batteries.

News 8 found the "purr-fect" companion at the Glenbrook Health Center where robotic pets are changing the lives of people living there with memory impairment.

Meet Ruffles.

Naomi Slyder - a resident at Glenbook living with dementia - met Ruffles the golden retriever "puppy" a few months ago.

"I just love her," said Naomi. "[I'm] really attached her."

The thing about Ruffle is she's a robot, so she's easy to care for - no picking up after her and she's a good listener. Naomi's daughter Susan Morrison says it's been life changing.

"I can tell you that it has made a huge difference in her life," said Susan. "She smiles with her eyes now. She is really happy."

Six months ago, Glenbrook Health Center explored the robotic pet program and purchased 12 robotic pets for about $100 each, which enrich the lives of residents, especially when one is adjusting to their new home.

"The effect on our residents [is] they have a sense of purpose, especially for those residents that have visual, auditory and [other] problems or feelings of loneliness," said Glenbrook assistant administrator Phil Padilla.

Phil admits he was skeptical about the program at first.

"Wow, I was proven wrong," he said.

Research shows that animals and battery-charged pets can improve psychological health and reduce stress.

One night with a robotic dog even helped a sleepless resident at Glenbrook.

"Literally the next day, her crying, her anxiousness stopped, and everybody said, 'wow,'" said Glenbrook life enrichment director Lorena Morales.

Many are surprised by healing power charged by two double-A batteries.

"It kind of came out of nowhere," said Susan Morrison. "We had no idea there were Ruffles out there."

Click here to learn more about Glenbrook and the robotic pet program.

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