Since 2018, NYSOFA has been providing animatronic pets to older adults who experience social isolation. These plush, "lifelike" robotic pets are designed to make realistic sounds and motions, providing comfort and companionship to individuals. The animatronic pet initiative started as a pilot in 2018 with 60 participants in 12 counties receiving the pets. Since that time, NYSOFA has worked to distribute over 33,000 animatronic pets to older adults who are assessed as being socially isolated (2018-2023).
NYSOFA works with Area Agencies on Aging and community partners to identify and screen individuals who are interested to receive pets. The initiative has been supported in the New York State budget (both the FY 2023 budget and FY 2024 budget) as part of a package of programs through NYSOFA to address social isolation and provide support for caregivers.
In a 2018 pilot study, NYSOFA found that 70 percent of older adults receiving these pets reported a reduction/significant reduction in loneliness as well as a 75 percent decrease in pain. The study was performed using the DeJong Loneliness Scale at different intervals of time (pre-adoption of the pets and at three, six, and 12 months).
NYSOFA works with Area Agencies on Aging and community partners to identify older adults who would most benefit from the technology. Individuals who are interested can contact their local office for the aging to be screened for eligibility.
Pets are also available to anyone at a discount using the NYS Discount Code NYS20 at https://joyforall.com/.