Caring for real animals is likely a tough task for nursing home residents, but that doesn’t mean they have to miss out on the joy associated with pet ownership.

That’s the motto of Jewish Family Services, which earlier this month delivered animated robotic therapy dogs to residents at Heritage Manor, a 72-bed long-term care facility in Youngstown, OH. 

“What this does is it gives them something to love and to attach to, but also to communicate with in a physical sense with touch, with laughter and joy and so many other areas of communication that may not be verbal, but are non-verbal,” Lynne Azar, senior outreach coordinator for Jewish Family Services, told local media while making the delivery. 

The animals were delivered to six residents specifically selected by staff who were most in need of emotional comfort. The animals respond to touch and sounds and allow residents to connect with them by using their human senses.

The pets were purchased from Joy For All Companion Pets through a $20,000 grant. Jewish Family Services said though just six residents received pets this round, more are expected to come for other seniors.

“I think this will be pretty popular. We started here at Heritage because we’re connected [through the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation], but I think once it’s out there, I’m sure other nursing homes will ask about it. We’re happy to look into it,” she said. “Our goal is to use those resources to provide great things for our 60-and-over community.”