Paro – therapeutic robot seal

Image of Paro the seal with Jean Wilson. Photograph by Chris Hopkins

Image of Paro the seal with Jean Wilson. Photograph by Chris Hopkins

PARO is an interactive robotic seal. This cuddly and responsive robot provides undemanding interactions and can deliver outcomes similar to animal-assisted therapy.

Today’s post is about PARO and the benefits it can provide to people with dementia.

PARO is a therapeutic robot in the form of a baby seal, developed in Japan to respond to touch, light, sound, temperature and positioning.

PARO has been shown to have a positive psychological effect on people living with dementia, improving their relaxation and motivation. It can also improve the socialisation of patients with each other, and with caregivers. PARO responds to sound and can even learn common words over time, such as its chosen name.

Article: Exploring the Effect of Companion Robots on Emotional Expression in Older Adults with Dementia: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial by Wendy Moyle [et al], Journal of Gerontological Nursing, Vol. 39, No. 5, May 2013, p.46-53

This pilot study aimed to compare the effect of companion robots (PARO) to participation in an interactive reading group on emotions in people living with moderate to severe dementia in a residential care setting. A randomized crossover design, with PARO and reading control groups, was used. Eighteen residents with mid- to late-stage dementia from one aged care facility in Queensland, Australia, were recruited. Participants were assessed three times using the Quality of Life in Alzheimer’s Disease, Rating Anxiety in Dementia, Apathy Evaluation, Geriatric Depression, and Revised Algase Wandering Scales. PARO had a moderate to large positive influence on participants’ quality of life compared to the reading group. The PARO intervention group had higher pleasure scores when compared to the reading group. Findings suggest PARO may be useful as a treatment option for people with dementia; however, the need for a larger trial was identified.

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Website: PARO Therapeutic Robot

PARO websiteThe official PARO website, includes information on PARO and an extensive library of research papers on PARO which you can obtain by request.

Television show: Trusting Robots, SBS Insight, 21 April 2015

From the SBS Insight website:

“Stephen Hawking recently warned that the development of full artificial intelligence (AI) systems could spell the end of the human race.

trusting robotsFrom agriculture and manufacturing to education and medicine, some experts are predicting a future where blue and white collar workers will soon be replaced.

Technological progress has seen robots become more sophisticated, so what will be the economic impact of AI?

Could we actually be entering an age of abundance for humans catered to by robot slaves?

Insight asks: Is humanity really being threatened by thinking robots, and where will robotic advances take us into the future?

What are the ethical and moral questions to consider?”

Guests include Professor Wendy Moyle who discusses a trial using PARO during the show.

Professor Moyle is Director of the Centre for Health Practice Innovation: “We’ve got a very large trial running with over 400 people with dementia… and we’re looking at whether (the robot) makes a difference to them in terms of emotional response… ”

Image of Paro the seal with residents. Photograph by Chris Hopkins

Image of Paro the seal with residents. Photograph by Chris

Animal assisted therapy for people with dementia

Dogs, cats and smaller animals such as birds can be devoted companions and a comfort to us. The unconditional love and companionship that an animal offers can reconnect us with good feelings and with the wider world.

Animals, in particular dogs, can also assist people with dementia to live independently for longer, instill a sense of purpose to our lives, provide sensory stimulation and even prompt reminiscence.

Article: Dementia Dogs Alex and Vonn start work, Dementia in Scotland, 2013

Dem_in_Scotland_webLast July two specially-trained assistance dogs were paired with families in Scotland as part Alzheimer Scotland’s Dementia Dog pilot project. Two more dementia assistance dogs, Alex and Vonn, have recently paired with their new families: Alex & Moira, and David & Maureen.

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a life worth livingBook: A life worth living: practical strategies for reducing depression in older adults, Pearl M. Mosher-Ashley and Phyllis W. Barrett

Chapter 6 of this book is Man’s Best Friend Animal-Assisted Therapy and it discusses the benefits of introducing animals to the lives of older people, including people with cognitive impairment. Using a combination of case studies and practical information on the implementation and use of animal-assisted therapy this chapter provides much useful information on how to successfully introduce this type of intervention. It also includes a template for an Animal-Assisted Therapy Interest Inventory and an Animal-Assisted Therapy Monitoring Form.

Guidelines: Animal Assisted Therapy (Pet Therapy) in Dementia Care, Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service (Vic), 2012

AAT_DBMAS_webThis Clinical Practice Guidelines describe how to implement Animal Assisted Therapy with live animals and robotic pets.


 Article: Pet encounters: Animal-assisted therapy for frail older adults, Linda L. Buettner, Activities Directors’ Quarterly, 2008

Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT), or using trained animals to facilitate therapeutic outcomes, is becoming a more popular way to provide effective therapy to older adults. The purpose of this article is to increase awareness about AAT and to introduce an effective program which provides AAT: Pet Encounters. This article describes the Pet Encounters program, its requirements, components, procedures, benefits, and evaluation methods.

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Workplace Training: Child and animal representational therapy and pets, Alzheimer’s Australia Victoriadementia education directory 2014 web

Understand the use of child and animal representational therapy plus pet therapy as a non-pharmacological intervention and an alternative strategy in reducing behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia.

Refer to page 28 of the Education Directory for details of this course.


adqcovrArticle: Animal-assisted therapy as a nondrug approach to pain and depression for older adults with dementia, Nancy E. Richeson, Activities Directors’ Quarterly, 2007

This article will discuss the use of animal-assisted therapy as a therapeutic intervention to treat pain and depression in older adults with severe dementia. To implement this intervention, an understanding of the use of recreation as a nondrug approach to treating clinical problems such as pain and depression is needed. A review of the recreation therapy literature is a recommended starting point.

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american journal of recreationalContent validation and pilot studies of the Therapy Effectiveness Evaluation for Animal-Assisted Therapy instrument, Joan Glacken and Marilyn K. Lawrence, American Journal of Recreational Therapy

Few evaluation tools exist for recreational therapists to use for guidance when considering whether to initiate animal-assisted therapy and evaluate the effectiveness of the therapy on clients. The purpose of this study was to determine the content validity of the Therapy Effectiveness Evaluation for Animal-Assisted Therapy instrument and whether the instrument is an effective tool in measuring improvement for functional domains (cognitive, physical, social, and emotional) of adult clients. The client data collected during the validation study were analyzed, and positive increases from pre- and post-test assessments were statistically significant (∝ = 0.05) for all four functional domains. This is a strong indication that animal-assisted therapy is a viable strategy for improving cognitive, physical, social, and emotional functioning in adults.

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