New robots to help dementia sufferers

Researchers have found the use of social robots can increase the quality of life for people living with dementia.

Dementia is a debilitating condition that affects over 48 million people worldwide, with over 380,000 of them in Australia

It is incurable, and sufferers experience a gradual decline in memory.

But, Griffith University has found the use of Japanese-built robots, which look like fluffy baby seals, can help dementia sufferers with anxiety.

Griffith University Professor Wendy Moyle has helped conduct the largest ever study on these social robots, called Paro.

She told Sky News the robots work in providing comfort and engagement.

‘People with dementia don’t only lose memory, they start losing voice, they stop speaking to people and become apathetic so the robots have a very good role in that way’.

She also said the shape of the robot is important because a seal is a neutral animal, unlike a cat or dog, which may cause a negative reaction in some people.

The Japanese robot costs $8,500 and responds to touch, temperature, and voice commands.

A Paro robot weighs approximately 2.5 kilos and has sensors all of over its body, which allows it to respond to physical contact. It also has emotional responses, wagging its tail when it’s happy and even responds to its name.

It is also light sensitive, which allows it to sleep at night.

There are some 2000 Paro seals worldwide, with 100 in Australia.

Researchers say the positive results mean the robots should be implemented in more nursing homes, with the robot being a better investment than a therapy dog because it doesn’t need feeding or looking after.

The vast majority are in Japan where they have even been used to befriend earthquake survivors.

Click here to watch the Sky News interview with Professor Wendy Moyle who discusses how effective PARO is, the reasons why it is effective and the cost benefit analysis of having PARO at a Residential Care Centre or at home:

PARO can be purchased outright or rented by the month from ZEST Dementia & Aged Care with no minimum rental period required. We can also arrange a trial for you to use PARO in your residence or private home. Contact us today to find out how we can help you to experience PARO for yourself.

Photo by Rob de Vries,