Charitable trust, The Selwyn Foundation, has welcomed some new arrivals to its aged care communities – in the form of nine robotic companion seals!
The new additions are part of the Foundation’s growing ‘colony’ of the interactive PARO healthbots, which are benefitting residents and clients of the Foundation’s dementia units, dementia day services, rest homes and hospitals. Modelled on a baby Canadian Harp seal, the PARO robot responds to touch and other stimuli in its environment by making soft noises, moving its head and tail and opening its eyes. Designed by acclaimed developer of healthcare robotics, Dr Takanori Shibata of the Japanese Government’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, it's the world’s most popular commercial robot for elderly people.
The Selwyn Foundation became the first aged care services provider to purchase therapeutic robots for use in New Zealand, when it took delivery of four PAROs in 2014, following successful trials with rest home residents at its Selwyn Heights retirement village. The research found that residents (who were not significantly cognitively impaired) were less lonely and more inclined to talk to caregivers and others as a result of their interaction with the robot.
A second trial has recently been conducted by researchers in psychological medicine at the University of Auckland, this time with people with advanced dementia attending the Foundation’s dementia day centres. The trial investigated whether PARO would be useful for people with dementia and their caregivers in the day care environment and at home, and the implications for helping people in the community cope with dementia. Results of the study will be available in August 2016.
Mr Garry Smith, CEO of The Selwyn Foundation, comments:
“Our experience shows that PARO helps stimulate activity and social engagement in residents and also brings physiological benefits, such as helping to lower blood pressure."
“Whilst it’s unlikely that robots will ever replace personal care or even pet animals in residential care facilities, there is a place for such assistive technology in aged care – for example, as an aid to communication, health monitoring and in ensuring the ongoing wellbeing of older people living alone.”