To minimise potential distress and negative impacts from using pet robots, researchers and care providers should assess their suitability for individuals with dementia, and facilitate their use based on each individual’s preference, needs and abilities. As the needs of people with dementia can fluctuate, care providers should also monitor and re-evaluate the use of pet robots.
Explanation and examples
Findings from a scoping review of eight studies showed that some people with dementia did not respond to pet robots. Some had negative responses such as agitation, or became jealous when the robot was shared with other residents in care facilities. An analysis of 1,327 consumer reviews on a low-cost robotic cat showed similar findings. Likewise, interviews with care providers from nursing homes revealed that they had similar experiences. To minimise the risks of potential negative impacts, the use of pet robots for each individual has to be carefully considered. This should encompass:
Assess the individual’s preferences, needs, functional abilities and needs (e.g. occupational needs, and physical, cognitive, and sensory abilities). If used in a care setting, consider discussing the use of pet robots with family members.
Facilitation and Tailoring
Based on the assessment, provide facilitation or tailored support to individuals. For example, if the individual has difficulties initiating interactions with the pet robot, consider providing assistance
Monitoring & Evaluating
Monitor and evaluate the individual’s reaction to pet robots, and intervene if the individual shows signs of distress. These observations should be shared with and discussed with other care providers if used in care facilities
ThemesOlder adults Pet robots Psychosocial impact Robotic pets Social robots
Target groupsDementia care organisations (nursing homes & day care centres) Dementia researchers Healthcare professionals Social robot designers/developers
Type of evidence
Scoping review, qualitative content analysis, qualitative study (interviews with care providers), modified Delphi study
Koh, W. Q., Ang, F. X. H., & Casey, D. (2021). Impacts of low-cost robotic pets for older adults and people with dementia: scoping Review. JMIR rehabilitation and assistive technologies, 8(1), e25340, 1-14. doi.org/10.2196/25340.
Koh, W. Q., Whelan, S. A., Heins, P., Casey, D., Toomey, E., & Dröes, R.M. (2021). Usability and impact of a low-cost robotic pet for older adults and people with dementia: a qualitative content analysis of user experiences and perceptions on consumer websites. JMIR Aging, 5(1), e29224, 1-16. doi.org/10.2196/29224.
Koh, W.Q., Toomey, E., Flynn, A. & Casey, D. (2022). Determinants of implementing of pet robots in nursing homes for dementia care. BMC Geriatrics, 22(1), 457, 1-12. doi.org/10.1186/s12877-022-03150-z.
Koh, W. Q., Hoel, V., Casey, D., & Toomey, E. (2022). Strategies to Implement Pet Robots in Long-Term Care Facilities for Dementia Care: A Modified Delphi Study. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association. doi.org/10.1016/j.jamda.2022.09.010