TAMPA, Fla. — Things move a bit slower these days in the Saunders household. 

“Come on, ready. Keep walking, keep walking," said Betty Saunders, as she guides her mother using a walker to a porch chair. 

“There you did it. Good job," she said. 

What You Need To Know

  • Robotic pet helping seniors with alzheimers and dementia

  • Pets are free for people with dementia and alzheimers in Hillsborough County

  • Reach out to the Hillsborough Adult Day Services Center

Olivia Saunders, 89, sits with a triumphant oomph and a smile. The only thing missing now is Hunny. 

“Here is your baby," said Betty, passing Olivia a robotic dog. 

Hunny is a robotic pet, designed for people with alzheimers and dementia. Both Olivia, and her husband Charles, 92, suffer from dementia.

“Mom had it first, and then dad was in a car accident in 2016. And I think it kinda, it was the onset of his dementia. And she is doing better than him now," said Saunders. 

Betty is not only Olivia and Charles' daughter, but she is also their full-time caregiver. 

Hunny on the other hand, provides some calm in a world that doesn't make sense right now, largely in part to the dementia, but also because of the pandemic. 

“It’s very calming," said Saunders. "I mean because dementia, they have different stages and different personalities at different times. And there is a personality that can be aggressive or mean, so this is real calming.”

Hunny has been with this family for over a year, and came from the Hillsborough Adult Day Services Center

Both Olivia and Charles used to go to the centers during the day, but the pandemic forced the center to shut down for the time being. To help their clients during this trying time, the Robotic Pets Program was born. 

“Originally the pet was ordered for my dad, and he is still a typical man, ya know. He didn’t want to play with a stuffed animal. Ha, ha. Women, we always love stuffed animals, so she really ya know. When she saw the box come in, she was excited to open it, play with it, and so Hunny became hers," said Saunders. 

The other upside to Hunny and the robotic pets, it's all the love without the true responsibility of a real animal. 

“I have enough on my plate," laughs Saunders. "I couldn’t even handle another human let alone a pet. I don’t have to walk it, I don’t have to feed it." 

These pets are free for people with dementia and alzheimers in Hillsborough County. To get one, just reach out to the Hillsborough Adult Day Services Center, or call 813-272-5250.