Robot therapy helps lonely elders

  • Breaking
  • 27/04/2014

As technology advances, robots are having an increasing role in elderly care, providing comfort in much the same way as cats or dogs.

Research by the Auckland Medical School found that a therapeutic robot called Paro helped loneliness and blood pressure among the elderly.

The Japanese robot, designed to look like a baby harp seal, has sensors that enable it to respond to being patted and talked to. 

Twenty people at Selwyn Heights Retirement Village saw Paro twice a week, for an hour each time, over a three-month period. Adapting to the new technology quickly, the residents soon adopted a new name for Paro.     

"We named her after the character Bright Eyes in the children's story," retiree Janet Danett says.

A study by the University of Auckland found that the people who interacted with Paro felt less lonely than a separate group that went on outings and played games.

"It's very healing for our residents to be able to pat any animal," Selwyn Heights manager Colleen Aldridge says.

But the initiative has not pleased everyone, with some expressing concern over how ethical it is to use robots as companions. 

Researcher Elizabeth Broadbent disagrees.

"I think anything we can do to improve the lives of people who are lonely or depressed is always good."

Paro's inventor will visit New Zealand this week and the university will talk to him about the possibility of a larger study.

At a cost of more than $5000, the residents of Selwyn Heights are hoping one day the retirement home can afford a robot of their own.

"It was a happy time when we had Paro, very happy," Ms Danett says.

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source: newshub archive