At any of the Aurrum care homes you might see a furry face with soft, gentle eyes peering up at you. That face belongs to PARO, a therapeutic seal who is helping to create meaningful moments and calming connections in aged care.
PARO is perfectly designed for cuddles. The robotic pet, inspired by a baby harp seal, is soft, fluffy and has just enough weight to sit in your lap comfortably. PARO seeks out your face, recognises your voice and makes realistic seal pup sounds. When patted, Paro might close its eyes and respond with a happy noise, or even fall asleep. This therapeutic robot is designed to mimic all the responses that a live animal would have.
What’s extraordinary about PARO is that it’s having an incredible effect for people with dementia at our Aurrum care homes, as it has been throughout aged care facilities in Japan and Europe. Residents love spending time with PARO, who can provide an emotional connection to previous pets and even children. It provides mental stimulation and motivation, and often calms those with dementia who can feel confused or distressed from time to time. This small seal can even help to provide comfort in times of grief. Rather than replacing human contact PARO complements it, even assisting communication between residents and staff.
It’s little wonder that PARO cost $15 million to develop. Japanese designer Dr Takanori Shibata has designed the seal with three microphones, touch-sensitive whiskers and five different sensors so that it will respond to light, touch, sound, temperature and posture just as an animal would. PARO even adjusts its behaviour and personality to suit the preferences of whoever is holding it. The fact that PARO is a seal removes any pre-conceived notions of how it should behave, unlike the cats or dogs that many of us are familiar with.
Real animals can be an invaluable part of our lifestyle program, but they can potentially get stressed and tired. Unpredictable outbursts, as can happen with dementia, can upset animals with even very calm demeanours. Now, PARO gives everyone the chance to connect with a pet and enjoy the many therapeutic benefits that come with this experience.
There are more than 400,000 people in Australia with dementia, including over 50% of residents living in aged care facilities. We look forward to seeing PARO sitting on more laps throughout Australia, providing friendly companionship and comfort.
Will PARO be available at aged care facilities near me?
Following a very successful trial with Paro at our Erina and Kincumber care homes, we have made PARO available across all of our care homes throughout Victoria and New South Wales. This is just one small part of our comprehensive lifestyle and wellness program for residents including yoga, pet therapy, music therapy and resident outings.