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Robot seals give dementia patients hope

Published on 25 June 2013 11:30 AM

Seals are helping to better the quality of life of dementia patients, according to a new study.

The seal in this case is PARO, a robotic harp seal and therapeutic android companion.

 

Researchers have claimed that engaging with PARO made people with mid to late-stage dementia less anxious and had a favourable effect on their lives.

Dementia affects about 800,000 people in the UK, usually occurring in people over the age of 65.

With the world facing a rapidly ageing population, the researchers now want to compare the impact of the robot companions with live pets such as dogs or cats.

An emotional robot

Academics from the UK, Australia and Germany have already been analysing the impact that PARO has on people living with dementia.

PARO is equipped with artificial intelligence software and tactile sensors that enable it to respond to touch and sound in addition to showing emotions such as surprise, happiness and anger.

It can also remember its own name and learns to respond to words that its owner utters regularly.

The trial, on 18 participators in Australia, showed that the cuddly automatons had a clinically significant effect, including raised rates of pleasure and also reduced stress.

'Robots may have a role in supporting people living with dementia'

Professor Glenda Cook, Professor of Nursing at Northumbria University, said the research gives vital initial backing for the theory that robots may supplement activities currently in use.

She believes they could also enhance the lives of older adults as therapeutic companions and especially for those with moderate or serious cognitive impairment.

Prof Cook said there is a need for further research with a bigger sample size, adding: 'There is an argument for investing in interventions such as PARO robots which may reduce dementia-related behaviours that make the provision of care challenging as well as costly due to increased use of staff resources and pharmaceutical treatment.'

There are 100 forms of dementia, among which Alzheimer's Disease is the most common. Dementia's symptoms include a loss of memory, mood swings, and difficulties with communication and reasoning.

The study is published in the Journal of Gerontopsychology and Geriatric Psychiatry.

Copyright Press Association 2013

Last updated: Oct 06 2017

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