TAMPA, Fla. - Marlene Diehl doesn't get many visits from her family these days because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"With the pandemic going on, my grandmother have been a lot lonelier, because we're been trying to social distance more and she's been by herself more," said Holly McWeeney, Diehl's granddaughter.
To help remedy the problem, Diehl is taking part in a new program sponsored by the Florida Alzheimer's Association and the Department of Elder Affairs.
The organization hands out a free robotic dog, cat or an MP3 player to any senior that lives at home.
Diehl got a dog she calls Buddy.
"It’s been nice. He sits over there, but I had him on my lap this morning," Diehl said. "Patting and talking to him."
“She loves animals, so we decided to order her the dog,” McWeeny said. “When I brought it over. She cried because she was so excited."
Becky Moultrie said the robotic animals supply companionship for seniors who don't get many visitors. "What the pets allow them is something or someone to interact with,” she explained. “It gives them some joy during their day."
Diehl said the electronic pet changed her life.
"He's great to have,” she exclaimed. “I enjoy him very much."
The robotic animals are a creative way to help isolated seniors find companionship.