Is It Live, or Is It Memorex?
I remember when audio tapes and tape players were a brand new thing. Memorex was a company that made cassettes on which you could record voice and music. (The title to this blog was their advertising pitch.) I recorded songs off the radio to create my own mixed tapes so I could enjoy the music over and over again.
Life has progressed, along with technology, and now we can listen or watch almost anything we want, whenever we want, wherever we want and as often as we want. We don’t have to be there for live events. We can post our recordings on Facebook and YouTube so others can watch them too. It’s incredible!
I get concerned, though, when substituting facsimiles for the “real thing” bumps up against my passion for Elders living meaningful lives. We know that the three plagues of loneliness, helplessness and boredom cause the bulk of suffering for Elders. When an organization is ready, and has done the appropriate foundational work, we advocate for the creation of a Human Habitat filled with the antidotes to these plagues: loving companionship, opportunities to give and receive care, and variety and spontaneity. What better way to do that than to introduce people of all ages and abilities, LIVE plants and LIVE animals into the home?
Artificial plants have long been available in a variety of shapes and sizes. We can now also purchase robotic cats and dogs that are fairly life-like. Some of them can blink their eyes and move their paws. They have fur that feels real, they purr when stroked, and even look like they are breathing while they sleep. Some of them are advertised as therapeutic for individuals living with dementia. They offer a “real pet ownership experience without the hassles and expense.”
In this day and age anything that is low budget, and minimal hassle, is a viable option, right?
Well, I’m filled with more questions than answers about introducing faux elements of the Human Habitat. I know there are situations in which Elders have demonstrated great affection for the robotic pets. My curiosity is whether that is because they believe them to be real, or because they believe it is the best they can hope for in their current living situation. Do robotic pets offer loving companionship, the antidote to loneliness? Do robotic pets and fake plants provide opportunities to give and receive care, the antidote to helplessness? Do robotic pets and fake plants offer variety and spontaneity, the antidote to boredom? Are we bringing in fake plants and robotic pets because we lack the energy or creativity to bring in the live versions instead? Are we are seeking a short-cut?
I would love to engage in a dialogue about this. Do fake plants and robotic pets have a place in the Human Habitat? If so, what is the role that they play? If you needed support and were given a robotic pet, would it bring meaning to your life and help alleviate loneliness, helplessness and boredom? I welcome new perspectives, and I look forward to hearing yours.