Unlike a real pet, PARO doesn’t shed hair, need feeding or exercising, but has the benefits of an animal companion by helping to reduce stress and anxiety.
The advanced interactive robot was developed in Japan. It has built-in sensors and artificial intelligence that allows it to ‘learn’ and respond to the name given to it by residents. It can also react to being stroked and spoken to by wriggling, turning to the person holding it, opening its eyes and squeaking.
Trials have shown it can help people with dementia by promoting social interaction and improving mood and speech.
Alison Hearle, Dementia and Social Life Lead at Morris Care, said: “We are always open to new ideas to improve the quality of care and help people live the best life they can. Animal therapy is something we have incorporated in social activities at our homes for many years now. This is a slightly different take on that and an exciting one.
“PARO is an amazing therapeutic device that looks so lifelike. It’s been lovely to see the reactions from our residents. People remember pets from their past and engage with it, just as they would a real animal.”
The robot is modelled on a baby harp seal and sounds like one too. It runs for eight hours after being fully charge. Silver iron particles in its fur prevent the growth of bacteria and it can be cleaned to meet care hygiene standards.
Morris Care’s social life co-ordinators are introducing PARO at sessions at its six homes being sensitive to residents’ needs.