Nursing home welcomes new robotic seal ‘therapy pet’

Private care provider, Morris Care, has introduced a new robotic seal pup to residents among six of its homes in a bid to help spark reminiscence of pets from their past.

“People remember pets from their past and engage with it, just as they would a real animal”

Alison Hearle

The forward-thinking robot, also known as “Paro”, reacts to being handled by the residents and can help to reduce stress and anxiety.

Paro, which will be implemented by social life co-ordinators, has built-in sensors and artificial intelligence which allows it to ‘learn’ and respond to the name given to it by residents.

The advanced interactive robot can also react to being stroked and spoken to by wiggling, turning towards the person holding it and opening its eyes and squeaking.

According to the care provider, previous trials have shown how the seal can help people with dementia by promoting social interaction, as well as improving mood and speech.

As previously reported by Nursing Times, residents at Longlands Care Home in Oxfordshire gave positive feedback on a similar robotic seal it trialled back in 2016.

In addition, a similar robot was also purchased by the University of Brighton to test its effects on hospital patients at Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust in 2015.

Alison Hearle, dementia and social life lead at Morris Care, described the seal as an “amazing therapeutic device that looks so lifelike”.

She said: “We are always open to new ideas to improve the quality of care and help people live the best life they can.

“Animal therapy is something we have incorporated in social activities at our homes for many years now,” she said. “This is a slightly different take on that and an exciting one.”

The robot is modelled on a baby harp seal and sounds and runs for eight hours after being fully charged.

Ms Hearle said: “It’s been lovely to see the reactions from our residents.

“People remember pets from their past and engage with it, just as they would a real animal,” she added.

The care provider noted that silver iron particles in its fur prevent the growth of bacteria and can be cleaned to meet care hygiene standards.

Morris Care, which is part of Morris & Company, a family-run business also highlighted that it is the first private care provider in the area to invest in the seal.