At OSJCT we’re always looking at different ways to enhance the well-being of our residents so we were thrilled when we were introduced to Paro, the robotic seal by Agnete (Aggy) Petersen, an MSc student of Anthropology at Aarhus University in Denmark.
The three month pilot at Longlands in Oxford was organised in conjunction with the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing and overseen by Co-Director Professor George Leeson. Paro, designed by a Japanese company is an advanced interactive robot, which offers all of the benefits of animal therapy without posing any health or infection risks or requiring feeding, exercise or toileting.
By interacting with people, Paro responds as if it was alive, moving its head and legs, and making sounds just like a real baby harp seal.
The introduction of Paro, which residents have named "Ted,", has had a number of benefits to residents.
Victoria Elliot, Principal Care Consultant at OSJCT, said, "In just a few weeks we've seen great changes in some of our residents."
She continued, "When residents interact with Paro, their whole demeanour changes. It's very compelling and I can only describe it as being akin to the reaction that holding a grandchild would have. For instance, one of our residents who prefers to stay in her room, says that seeing Paro makes her day and her life worth living."
The £5,000 robot has five kinds of sensor: tactile, light, audition, temperature and posture, through which it can perceive people and its environment, reacting to light and dark, and whether it is being stroked or held by moving its head and legs and making sounds, just like a real baby harp seal.
Paro is being used by Ms Peterson to explore how older people and people with dementia benefit from interacting with therapeutic robots. "The study is still in its infancy and we have already observed some encouraging effects on the social interaction of residents at the care home," said Aggy.
One resident, Freda Harris, 88, added, "I love him very much. He's like a real seal. He reacts to me and it's like he knows what I'm thinking about.
"I know he's made to react to people if they react to him, but I do love him and he's helped me a great deal."
Please follow this link for a video of Paro as seen on local news.