Last week, I was all set to start writing about Harvard’s robotic bee when our servers crashed. As fate would have it I discovered something better (also conceived in Cambridge) a robotic dog for seniors (aka Buddy). Besides being partial to dogs named Buddy, I believe that this new MIT startup, Gerijoy, is part of a growing wave of telepresence robots for the expanding geriatric market.
Gerijoy is part of the second class of Blue Print Health’s Accelerator Fund that presented last week as part of their Demo Day presentation to investors in New York. While many startups focused on business-to-business healthcare solutions, Gerijoy did something different by building a consumer focused Artificial Intelligence App for society’s most vulnerable demographic – dementia patients and their families. According to the National Inststitude of Aging, 5.4 million people have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in America, breaking this down further this translates to 1 in 8 people over 65 w and nearly half of all seniors above 85 will be affected by some sort of dementia. As the presidential candidates discuss healthcare costs in the United States, the growing elderly dementia population continues to be a real emotional and financial burden for prospective patients, families and local communities. Gerijoy aims to relieve the stress of aging and memory loss by leveraging the proven success of animal therapy and elder engagement.
While dementia is a physical medical condition, it is exasperated by isolation as seniors remove themselves from their surroundings, families and life in general. Gerijoy confronts this condition of loneliness through a clever (and cute) iPad and Android App that enables seniors to communicate and engage with their animated “pet dog” named Buddy. The always on electronic companion requires no walking, grooming or feeding, however demands the same positive attention that a real life dog would require (just smaller poop bags). The best part of Gerijoy’s platform is that families can utilize Buddy to engage Grandpa with new uploaded photos, videos, and messaging to keep their loved one engaged in their lives.
While Gerijoy is not completely robotic, just yet, the promise of virtual 24/7 companionship is priceless (even if it is billed at a monthly of $99). In fact, early tests at senior facilities in the New York and Boston area are showing such success that my own living breathing Golden Retriever also named Buddy, who is a certified therapy dog, is now unemployed.