The Best Companion. Therapeutic, Interactive Pets

 

Being an absolute pet lover, even one of our team members is a beautiful furry friend called Beau; I thought the final product for the year could be all about companion pets. What better present to buy someone living in residential aged care!

Companion pets vary tremendously in price and range from Paro, the therapeutic robot which has been around now for more than a decade, through to the companion puppies. Paro of course is the most expensive but is quite an advanced interactive robot. Paro has five kinds of sensors: tactile, light, audition, temperature and posture sensors so it can perceive people and its environment. The light sensor means it can recognize light and dark. It can feel being stroked by the tactile sensor or being held by the posture sensor. Paro can also recognize the direction of voice and words such as its name, greetings and praise with its audio sensor. Paro can learn to behave in a way that the user prefers. It really responds as if it is alive, moving its head and legs, making sounds and showing your preferred behavior. Now this product was designed by a leading Japanese industrial automation pioneer so of course it is tailored to the Japanese by imitating the voice of a real baby harp seal. Not sure how they relate to our residents in Australia but feedback has had positive results but certainly at a high price tag.

Then of course there are the companion dog and cat robots. The cheapest are the battery operated pups that have a mechanism so their stomach will gently rise and fall to imitate a little puppy having a snooze.  It is extremely soothing to rest a hand on the pet or stoke it and feel the movement. The next level up are the robotic cats and dogs. The cat is equipped with soft fur that gently vibrates when it purrs, whilst the pup barks and cocks it head in your direction when you speak. These are very reasonably priced for under $300 you can contact us here for purchase information. 

So how effective are they and do we have the research to back it up before spending hundreds if not thousands of dollars?

According to a small study published in the Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine in 2013, Researchers at the University of Auckland in New Zealand discovered that a robot companion such as Paro the seal can offer benefits to senior adults similar to that of a living animal, (1). In summary the study was conducted in a retirement home with 40 residents. They were divided into two groups, one interacted with Paro and the others had trips to the city and participated in a variety of activities. Before the study tests were conducted which measured the residents for loneliness, depression and quality of life and yes, you guessed it, Paro the seal won out on all levels. The activities coordinator also brought in her Jack Russell and the residents interacted more with Paro, mainly due to the Jack Russell being selective as to who to show its affection to whereas Paro wasn’t discriminate.

Similarly, a 2008 study published in the same journal, found that interactive robotic dogs were effective in reducing feeling of loneliness among the residents of a long term care facility. According to the study, residents showed high levels of attachment to both a living and robotic canine.  “We were told by some of the people in nursing homes that they preferred robotic pets because they would not have to worry about them if they had to be admitted to the hospital or that they couldn’t take care of a living pet” said Dr. William Banks, a professor at the University of Washington and associate chief of staff in research and development at the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System, who was a co-author of the 2008 study. 

If you would like to purchase a robotic furry friend, please give us a call on 9386 9733

If you would like further information on the study I have attached the link below.

(1) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1525861013000972

 
DesignAmy Bosnar