Meet Bella, a digital cat that cares for the elderly with purrs and companionship | Hindustan Times
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Meet Bella, a digital cat that cares for the elderly with purrs and companionship

Bella, the digital cat that exists on a table, checks if patients have taken their medication, plays the rock ‘n’ roll music they like and reassures them when they feel anxious.

more lifestyle Updated: Oct 24, 2017 09:15 IST
Bella is a digital pet that exists on a tablet. She was created by Care Coach, a social enterprise that is competing with traditional models of care for the elderly in terms of cost, flexibility and resources.
Bella is a digital pet that exists on a tablet. She was created by Care Coach, a social enterprise that is competing with traditional models of care for the elderly in terms of cost, flexibility and resources. (www.care.coach)

Patricia Richards, who is 64 years old and lives in Salem, Massachusetts, looks forward to her daily chats with her cat Bella. “I love Bella very, very much. She’s helpful ... she does a lot of things for me and I’m so happy she’s in my house,” said Richards.

Except Bella isn’t like most animals. As well as being able to talk, Bella checks if Patricia has taken her medication, plays the rock ‘n’ roll music she likes and reassures her when she is feeling anxious.

Because Bella is a digital pet that exists on a tablet. She was created by Care Coach, a social enterprise that is competing with traditional models of care for the elderly in terms of cost, flexibility and resources. As companies providing state-funded care work to deliver services with sometimes dwindling finances, technology is offering a way to balance challenging budgets.

DIGITAL CARE

In the United States, advances in healthcare and a public better informed about healthy lifestyles has lead to an increasingly ageing population. One in five of the nation’s population will be 65 or older by 2030, according to a 2014 government report.

Richards’ welfare is managed by healthcare organisation Element Care, which has engaged Care Coach to provide the pets. Element is now looking to increase the 15 current users because of the benefits that have resulted.

Not only has Richards’ wellbeing improved but the company has saved money on the cost of her care, it says. She was selected for the digital pet because of repeated visits to the hospital whilst suffering anxiety and a shortage of breath related to smoking. Richards had also suffered the loss of a family member which added to the anxiety, so was calling on therapists and care staff more often, partly for solace and partly for company.

“Our highest success is some of these lonely individuals who just need a little bit of extra help and attention,” said Kendra Seavey, the project administrator for the initiative. The pet also provides 24-hour care, whereas the care centre she attends is only open during office hours Monday to Friday.

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