Tag: assisted living
Meet GeriJoy. He’s a virtual dog. He’s a talking dog. He’s even described as “a compassionate” dog.
He was developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to be an interactive companion for older people with dementia or memory problems, serving to provide what his makers call “continual stimulation.”
But there’s something about GeriJoy, noble as the idea may be, that I find a little bit patronizing, a little bit insulting, and highly phony. His creation also seems an awfully circuitous and robotic route to take to provide a virtual experience with an animated creature when the real thing is so abundantly available.
Clearly, I’m cynical, or at least wary, when it comes to technology — and perhaps more. It was only yesterday, after all, that I cruelly bashed soft and fuzzy stuffed animals.
Despite that, techno-wizards keep trying, intent, it seems, on trying to capture a no-shed, no-drool, no bark, no worries version of dog — be it stuffed, virtual, or mechanical — and then convince you that their inanimate, or animated, object will love you unconditionally forever.
The truth is, close as they might come — and cloning probably comes closest — they never will. Ha ha. Take that.
If GeriJoy, the virtual dog, is making some old person happy, even if it’s a delusional kind of happy, we’re all for it. If it’s being used as a substitute for human attention, we’re not. With all the growth in and demands on senior services and facilities for the elderly, there’s a tendency to look for quick and easy shortcuts, when the keys to doing job right are already obvious — caring staff, ample staff, staff with hearts.
And maybe some dogs — real dogs.
What I’d rather see is not a nursing home where dozens of residents are lined up in wheelchairs, stroking animated images on their hand held devices, but one that’s taking advantage of programs — or even creating some — in which dog ownership among residents is encouraged, and assistance with those dogs is provided; ones where dogs live under communal ownership, or short of that, therapy dogs visit regularly; one that’s investing in building a qualified and caring staff, as opposed to investing in devices that substitute for real human, or dog, contact.
Here’s how the GeriJoy website touts the product: “Have an older loved one who is lonely and suffers from dementia or geriatric depression? GeriJoy can help. We provide talking pets that are intelligent, compassionate, and available 24/7 to talk about anything, including photos and updates from family.”
The virtual dog can be displayed on a computer or other Internet-connected device. The virtual dog, the website claims, ”provides all the availability and unconditional love of an adorable pet, combined with the ability to talk with true intelligence and compassion … It’s as if it lives inside a picture frame, so you get the benefits of pet therapy without any smells, allergies, cleaning up, bites, or food and veterinary bills.”
The virtual dog can provide around the clock stimulation, his developers say, and, in the video snippet above, GeriJoy certainly sounds stimulating, or stimulated, almost orgasmically so. “Oh, you’re so good,” GeriJoy coos as an elderly man strokes the image on the screen.
We’re not sure if that’s what GeriJoy told the Senate Special Committee on Aging’s Healthy Aging Forum this month when he appeared before it. He’ll also be on exhibit at the AARP Health Innovation@50+ Tech Expo on May 31 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, according to the AARP blog.
To get GeriJoy, one must subscribe, and pay from $99 to $129 a month. The hardware costs up to $349 for the most sophisticated, Internet-connected version.
GeriJoy was co-founded by Victor Wang, a former Canadian Army officer who did research on human-machine interaction for NASA while at MIT. He says he was inspired to develop the virtual dog by his grandmother in Taiwan, who became depressed while she was living alone.
Wang says GeriJoy can even serve as a watchdog. In one case, a user’s human caregiver was being verbally abusive, and GeriJoy “contacted the user’s daughter to let her know about it.”
“Whatever your loved one wants to know, the companion can find out and report back,” the website says. “It can send and receive messages and photos between you and your loved one, also via the Internet. All this is done through the intuitive metaphor of a talking dog. Your loved one doesn’t even need to know what a computer is.”
We don’t care if the day comes when a virtual dog can cook dinner, push a wheelchair, administer medications or help you understand your health insurance.
A real dog is better — even with his shedding and drooling. Real dogs bring one into, and keep one in, the moment. Real dogs can help you keep a grip on reality, as opposed to pulling you into fantasy land. And real dogs offer a true form of love and validation — even if they can’t say, at least with words, “Oh, you are so good.”
Posted by jwoestendiek May 24th, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: aarp, aging, animals, animated, app, assisted living, computer, dementia, dog, dogs, elderly, gerijoy, health, image, internet, memory, mit, nursing homes, pets, talking, technology, unconditional love, virtual, virtual dog
Today is my father’s 89th birthday and, while he’s spending it in a skilled nursing facility in Arizona, I expect he’ll see a friendly face or two, at least one of them canine.
Therapy dog Henry Higgins, who belongs to one of the physical therapists at Mission Palms, has formed a pretty close friendship with my dad — to the extent that my dog Ace, were he aware of it, would probably be jealous.
The closest we could come to a real visit from Ace was putting his image on the front of the sweatshirt that my father will be getting — probably a few days late – for his birthday.
But until he has Ace on his chest to wear on his chest it appears — at least from these pictures Henry’s owner sent me — he’ll have Henry to bring a smile to his face.
And, even though I’m thousands of miles away, and it’s not my birthday, mine, too.
(Photos: By Cristina Higgins)
Posted by jwoestendiek March 14th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aging, animals, assisted living, bill woestendiek, birthday, dog, dogs, elderly, happy birthday, henry, henry higgins, mission palms, pets, skilled nursing, therapy dogs, woestendiek
An eight-year-old beagle named Ginger now lives part-time at Renaissance Gardens, the assisted living/skilled nursing facility located at Riderwood, where she visits residents, serves as an icebreaker and, just maybe, is lowering some blood pressures as well.
Ginger’s new mission came out of a pet-sitting arrangement between friends. Karen Spicer, a Community Resources Coordinator at Riderwood who lives in Ellicott City, started taking care of Ginger four years ago, whenever Ginger’s family went on vacation.
It was Ginger’s mom who came up with the idea of sharing the beagle, who now spends part of the time as a pet with her family in Catonsville, part of it with Spicer in Ellicott City, and part of it at Riderwood.
Spicer picks up Ginger, who recently completed her orientation to be a Pets on Wheels dog, on the first Sunday of the month and drops her back home on the third Sunday of the month.
Ginger, according to Spicer, is sweet, compliant and unusually obedient and quiet for a beagle. “She loves to tell people that they are great,” said Spicer. “She is great company for me. I am a better person for having her.”
(Photo: Courtesy of Erickson Living)
Posted by jwoestendiek August 12th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, assisted living, beagle, catonsville, dog, dogs, ellicott city, erickson living, ginger, karen spicer, maryland, nursing, pets, pets on wheels, renaissance gardens, retirement, riderwood, senior, shared, shared dog, silver spring, therapy dog
Over at Arbor Acres, the retirement community where my mother lives, there’s a population explosion looming.
Our duck friends, whose importation we told you about last summer, have produced a second generation, and several mama ducks are now poised atop their eggs.
Arbor Acres has always had ducks and geese — sometimes too many, sometimes not enough. They stay along a pond and an azalea-lined canal that feeds the pond. The geese come and go, but most of the ducks seem to like it enough to make it home.
The ducks serve as conversation pieces, and much more. They give residents something to watch that’s far more interesting than television, let them stay in touch with nature, and take part in the excitement of a new cycle of life starting up. When the baby ducks start showing up at Arbor Acres, all other news takes a back seat.
(I am of the opinion that every center for the elderly, a group I am in hopes of joining one day, should get massive and regular doses of two things — young people and animals, and that bringing them together greatly benefits all three. )
Last year, when the numbers dwindled and most of the newborns were being gobbled up by predators — a turtle who lives in the pond is the top suspect — one resident took steps to re-establish a flock.
He bought 16 of various breeds, cared for them at home and released them when they were old enough to get by on their own. The new ducks were all named after residents — one of them after my mother, Jo Woestendiek, whose room overlooks the canal.
For a week now, Jo Woestendiek, the duck, has been laying atop her eggs in a nest she made with pine needles — just outside the window of Jo Woestendiek, the human, who leans over her couch and cranes her neck in hopes of getting a glimpse of them.
The births are always followed by a period of concern for the residents — walking on eggshells would be one way to put it — as they wait to see how many of the eggs, then ducklings, are going to survive the turtle, coyote, fox and heron that see them as breakfast.
One summer a few years ago, my mother — apparently not the first to do so – took a group of newborns in, secretly keeping them in a cardboard box in her room. (Ace, during a visit, was fascinated by them, slowly approaching and giving each a delicate sniff.)
This year, a good batch of eggs has shown up around campus and, depending on how many escape the predators, the duck population could triple, with a strong contingent of what my mother has already taken to calling — even before they hatch — the Woestenducks.
There aren’t too many things in the world cuter than baby ducks, and how they steadfastly follow their mother, on land and water, no matter how much she zigs and zags.
As I watched them Sunday, mother duck swam across the canal, her babies following closely. When the mother duck climbed up a series of rocks and into the pine needles under a bush, the baby ducks struggled, falling over each other, off the rocks, then fighting to get up again, almost reaching the top only to tumble back down.
I wanted to lend a hand, especially to the last one trying to make it up — clearly the klutz of the bunch. He’d slap a webbed foot on a wet rock, only to have it slide off as he somersaulted back into the water.
I kept thinking his mother should get up and help him.
Then I realized, by not going to his aid, she was.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 23rd, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, arbor acres, assisted living, babies, baby ducks, birds, birth, communities, cycles, dogs, duck, ducklings, ducks, eggs, elderly, explosion, geese, hatched, independence, instititutions, jo woestendiek, motherhood, mothers, nature, nursing homes, pets, photography, population, retirement homes, survival, wildlife
A small dog got wedged in a mechanized reclining chair at an assisted living facility in suburban Chicago and had to be freed by firefighters.
Naperville firefighters used a saw to cut the chair apart, and reported the dog, who belongs to a resident, didn’t appear to have been harmed – either by the chair or the rescue.
Firefighters were called to the Sunrise of Naperville assisted living center Thursday night, the Daily Herald reported. Firefighter/Paramedic Scott Bolda said the dog didn’t appear to be in pain when firefighters arrived on scene. A nurse’s aide was relieving some of the pressure from the chair to help the dog breathe, he said.
Bolda said the chair’s electrical controls stopped working when the dog became wedged, so the only option left was to saw the chair apart.
“It took about five minutes to get him free,” Bolda said. “We’ve never had to rescue a dog like that before.”
Posted by jwoestendiek April 26th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, assisted living, center, dog, facility, mechanized, news, ohmidog!, pets, recliner, reclining chair, rescue, resident, saved, stuck, sunrise of naperville, trapped, traps
Dogs are better walking companions than humans on almost all counts, a new study shows, with the possible exception of conversation (though I generally favor them in that category as well).
Research at the University of Missouri has found that people who walk dogs are more consistent about regular exercise, walk at a brisker (therefore more healthy) pace, and show more improvement in fitness than people who walk with a human companion, according to the New York Times health blog, “Well.”
In a 12-week study of 54 older adults at an assisted living home, 35 people were assigned to a 5-day-a-week walking program — 23 walking with a friend or spouse, 12 walking dogs at a local animal shelter.
The dog walkers showed a big improvement in fitness, while the human walkers began making excuses to skip the workout. Walking speed among the dog walkers increased by 28 percent, compared with just a 4 percent increase among the human walkers.
“The improvement in walking speed means their confidence in their walking ability had increased and their balance had increased. To have a 28 percent improvement in walking speed is mind boggling,” said Rebecca A. Johnson, a nursing professor and director of the Research Center for Human Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
Johnson said the dog walkers were far more consistent in sticking with the program than those who were walking with humans: “In the human walking group, they were regularly discouraging each other from walking,” she said. “Missouri is a hot state. We would hear them saying: ‘It’s hot today. I don’t want to walk, do you?’ ”
The dog walkers, on the other hand, were nearly always up for the task:
“When the people came to the animal shelter, they bounced off the bus and said, ‘Where’s my dog?”’ Johnson said. “And the dogs never gave any discouragement from walking.”
The study, not yet published, is continuing, and Johnson said she suspects differences will show up in other areas, like depression and anxiety.
Already, though, Johnson said, many people in the dog-walking group stopped using canes and walkers. “They would say, ‘Now I’m physically fit enough to take my dog for a walk,”’
Posted by jwoestendiek December 16th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adults, assisted living, balance, better, center, college of veterinary medicine, companions, confidence, dog, dog walking, dogs, fitness, health, human animal interaction, humans, improvement, older, rebecca a. johnson, research, speed, study, university of missouri, walk, walking