SEMINOLE (FOX 13) - There are furry felines comforting dementia patients in the Memory Unit at Freedom Square Senior Living in Seminole, but no one is changing litter boxes or filling food bowls. Instead, they're changing batteries.
Program Manager Diane Lindahl says the cats are actually Joy For All electronic pets and they were an instant hit after arriving three months ago.
"They all know that the pets are not real, they understand that, but it doesn't make a difference. They're still able to connect with them," she told FOX 13 News.
It's a connection that's soothing to 97-year-old old George Wilson.
"I mean, who would think that this man who has seen what he has seen, lived through what he has lived through, still has that soft side that can make that connection with that pet?" Lindahl asked.
During World War II, George’s Black Scorpion bombing squadron helped cut off supplies to Nazi forces by taking out bridges and railroads, paving the way for allied troops to advance.
"That’s me in the fighter. That’s the plane I flew," George said as he flipped through old photos. "That’s another one I flew."
George's step-daughter, Vicki Andrews admits George’s response to the pets is surprising.
"George didn't have pets as a young person, it wasn't part of his family, and now it's a part of his week," she explains.
Even residents who no longer communicate, no matter their past, are benefiting.
"My dream would be that we have enough for each resident," says Lindahl.
For more information on the Joy For All electronic pets, visit https://joyforall.hasbro.com/en-us.
For more information on Freedom Square Senior Living, visit https://www.brookdale.com/en/communities/freedom-square.html.