“What Robots Can—and Can’t—Do for the Old and Lonely” – The New Yorker

“For elderly Americans, social isolation is especially perilous. Will machine companions fill the void?”

animatronics

by Katie Engelhart

“It felt good to love again, in that big empty house. Virginia Kellner got the cat last November, around her ninety-second birthday, and now it’s always nearby. It keeps her company as she moves, bent over her walker, from the couch to the bathroom and back again. The walker has a pair of orange scissors hanging from the handlebar, for opening mail. Virginia likes the pet’s green eyes. She likes that it’s there in the morning, when she wakes up. Sometimes, on days when she feels sad, she sits in her soft armchair and rests the cat on her soft stomach and just lets it do its thing. Nuzzle. Stretch. Vibrate. Virginia knows that the cat is programmed to move this way; there is a motor somewhere, controlling things. Still, she can almost forget. ‘It makes you feel like it’s real,’ Virginia told me, the first time we spoke. ‘I mean, mentally, I know it’s not. But—oh, it meowed again!’

“‘She named the cat Jennie, for one of the nice ladies who work at the local Department of the Aging in Cattaraugus County, a rural area in upstate New York, bordering Pennsylvania.”

Click here to read this New Yorker article in its entirety.

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