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Woman holding an Ageless Innovation cat, as part of the Pilot Pet Program

Cattaraugus County Department of the Aging celebrated "National Puppy Day" by presenting the Linwood Social Adult Day Program at Intandem with a Hasbro Joy for All(r) puppy and cat. Additionally, the department's real life comfort/service pets, Maddy and Sunny Saunders, spent some time at the Linwood Center. Maddy Saunders has completed therapy dog certification and Sunny who is just over one year old plans to sit for the next local certifications. Both dogs are Papillons and are handled by Bonnie Saunders, NY Connects Administrator and member of the Olean Kennel Club.

The ageless innovation pets were introduced to the Cattaraugus County Department of the Aging through a pilot pet program spearheaded by Greg Olsen, Director of the NY State Office of Aging (NYSOFA). Cattaraugus County received 3 Hasbro Cats and 3 Hasbro dogs. The NYSOFA pilot pet program's goal was to assign the pets to 6 older adults and measure if the pets decreased loneliness. The DeJong Gierveld Loneliness scale is being utilized as well as other outcome tools.

Cathy Mackay, Director of Cattaraugus County Department of the Aging, embraced the program and wanted to develop the program even further. She utilized foundation money through the Cattaraugus Region Community Foundation to purchase an additional 13 pets. Two of the pets have already been assigned to the dementia care unit of the Pines of Machias Skilled Nursing Facility. Two pets are set aside to provide comfort at the Pines of Olean, and two will be assigned to Total Senior Care PACE/DayBreak in Olean.

The additional pets will be assigned to individuals who are receiving case management through Department of the Aging. Caseworkers will complete the DeJong Gierveld Loneliness Scale, the GAD-7 Generalized Anxiety Disorder screening tool, and the Wong-Baker Faces pain scale.

Caregivers are already reporting that they are seeing a measurable improvement in decreased agitation and request for anxiety and pain medications as well as increased positive mood and interactions with their loved ones. One couple reported daily "pet" time for their newest family member after having named their pup, even going so far as to purchase him a pet bed.

The Hasbro Joy for All Pets(r) are lifelike and realistic. The Cat features VibraPurr technology, while opening and closing its eyes, lifting its paw in a licking manner, and performing other movements. The Puppy can respond to voices and features BarkBack technology, Wagging its tail, and making other similar puppy movements. It features a heartbeat that you can feel.

"Ideally, I would love to have funding to provide many additional pets to seniors in our community. It would be great if we could also purchase a set of pets for some of the Health Department's programs," said Cathy Mackay. We are just seeing so much success with these pets for people of any age. One caregiver stated that her husband who suffers from Alzheimer's loves to hold the pet regularly, smiling and talking to his furry companion. She added that although she knows the pet is not real, she finds herself hugging and talking to it, as well!

If you would like more information on the Hasbro Joy for All(r) pets, contact the Cattaraugus County Department of the Aging at 716-373-8032.

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