An Ohio man and his 92-year-old grandmother want to help people with Alzheimer's and dementia during this holiday season. Ross Smith and his comedy mate – his grandmother, who passes for "Granny" – visited four different seniors' institutions in Ohio last week and brought with them a very special gift: puppies.
Smith and Granny are a duo of viral comedies who started producing fun videos together five years ago. The pair has become "best friends" since they started creating videos together, Smith said. "We're just trying to get as much positivity as possible … it makes us happy too," he told CBS News.
This year, they decided to use their acting talents – and their puppies – to brighten the holidays of people with Alzheimer's and dementia.
According to the Alzheimer's Association, about 1 in every 10 Americans over 65 years old has the disease and the risk increases with age. Although Smith claims that his own grandmother is not affected by this, he thinks it's the ideal cause for the duo.
"It was time for me to come up with an idea to use that voice and give it back," Smith said. "Many people approached and said that they could no longer talk to their grandmother and grandfather because they were suffering from dementia and that they lived vicariously at through us. " Smith said it inspired their visit to the retirement homes.
Smith told CBS News that the people there had responded very well to the puppies. "What I've learned is that people with Alzheimer's disease and dementia are not very receptive," he said. "But with animals and music, they really have old memories coming back and hitting them hard."
"So when I go to these rooms and talk to people … you can say that they were affected by this disease.But when you give them a puppy, it's like a radio silence and they are so focused, it's like night and day. "
The puppies were loaned to Smith and Granny by Petland, a pet store located in Lewis Center, Ohio.
On the Monday before Thanksgiving, when the couple moved into seniors' homes with a group of puppies, the faces of elderly patients immediately lit up.
Smith produced a video of their visits and published it on Thanksgiving Day. He says that he wants people with Alzheimer's disease and dementia to know that they are not forgotten, especially during the holidays.
"[People] Forget people when they're old, "said Smith," we want to give all we can to those who may not have family for the holidays or who do not have a home or who might have trouble remembering the holidays. "
Smith's now viral video shows patients snuggling with several breeds of dogs. Some patients were so comfortable with the puppies that they fell asleep.
Granny was also there to encourage people with a joke. "You are doing a perfect marriage," she told a woman holding a puppy. "Did you meet on Tinder?" she joked.
Granny constantly makes jokes and jokes in his grandson's videos on social networks. In fact, she became famous for them. Smith says he and Granny have over 19 million fans on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook.
He and Granny first visited patients with dementia in June and decided to do it again this holiday season. This time, they left a lasting gift.
"We partnered with a pillow manufacturer in Chicago and said we would take an exact photo of each puppy and we would create a custom-cut pillow," he said. "And we will give those pillows to people when we leave so they have something to keep."
Smith said the puppy pillows were a hit, and his video shows it. Each person received a pillow that looked exactly like the dog she was cuddling.
He added that the duo had the intention to redo it throughout the holiday season and then continue throughout the year. Smith stated that anyone wishing to help could buy his own pillow from The Custom Pillow. The company teamed up with Smith so that for every pillow sold, a free copy would be given to the Smith and Granny cause.
"It all started as a small little idea to give back and use our platform to inspire people to do good," Smith said. "We want people to be known and loved all year round, but especially during the holiday season, we want them to feel cared for."