My mother's parents are in their 80s and in an independent living apartment in a retirement community where they've lived for about 6 years. My grandmother had two small birds (parakeets, I think) for many years; one of them died last year, and the other died very recently. My grandmother is distraught over the death of the recent bird ("Everything and everyone around me is dying!") - this wasn't just a pet she'd purchased, this bird was one she had found being attacked by wild birds in the back yard of her old home and nursed back to health. She loves animals, and I think she would get a lot of fulfillment out of caring for a new pet...she's had significant hearing loss (and doesn't always remember her hearing aids), major anxiety, and is starting to show some signs of early dementia, so anything that could assist in keeping her mind "outside of herself" would be really helpful.
There are, of course, some problems. Due to the above-stated reasons, any pet of hers could not be very high-maintenance. The apartment she shares with my grandfather is fairly small, so the pet couldn't be big and/or require a big cage/enclosure/tank. She already has the cage/accessories and experience caring for birds, so that would be an obvious choice, but my grandfather has declared he's "done with all the damn birds" (though I think he could be talked around). She and my grandfather had several dogs - miniature poodles - for the whole time my mother was growing up and into my own childhood as well, so they understand how to care for dogs and definitely aren't allergic. (My mother doesn't believe they're allergic to cats, either, but isn't sure; she herself IS allergic to cats, so it's a possibility that one/both of her parents are, too.) I thought about something like a turtle or an iguana, since they're pretty low-maintenance other than the aquarium-cleaning, but since most of what my grandmother likes/responds to with animals are the happy sounds they make and the interactions she can have with them, I'm not sure a reptile or a fish would fit the bill, and honestly I think that without such interactions she might forget that the animal was there and it would die. I have no experience with rabbits, but I've heard that their hutches can REALLY smell if not cleaned very frequently.
So, does anyone have any ideas or suggestions? Is there an option I haven't thought of? She just needs something that, ideally, will interact with her, not run around too much, sleep a lot, and be fussed over a bit. I have experience with pets, so I feel like this list of demands is kind of ludicrous in reality (NO pet is maintenance-free), but I hated seeing her so miserable over the death of her bird and would really love to help make her happy. Maybe a new pet isn't the answer; I'm willing to accept that. But I just figured I'd turn to the internet to brainstorm a bit and find out what other people think!