The Foundation has won the 2016 New Zealand Aged Care Association/QPS Benchmarking ‘Innovative Delivery’ Award for its use of PARO therapeutic robotic seals in its residential aged care facilities and the proven benefits for residents.
The award was announced at this month’s New Zealand Aged Care Association (NZACA) conference, following a submission and presentation by Selwyn on the positive psychological, physical and social effects for residents when interacting with the seals. Benefits include decreasing depression and loneliness, reducing stress and agitation and restoring a sense of calm, comfort and wellbeing for residents. Sessions with PARO also bring about physiological benefits, such as helping to lower blood pressure, and can improve social interaction and conversation.
PARO is an advanced interactive robot modelled on a baby Canadian Harp seal, which responds to touch and other stimuli in its environment by making soft noises, moving its head and tail and opening its eyes. Designed in Japan, it is the world’s most popular commercial robot for elderly people and is approved in the USA as a health device.
The Selwyn Foundation became the first provider in New Zealand to introduce PARO to its care facilities, following successful trials with residents undertaken by Auckland University in 2013. The research found that rest home residents (who were not significantly cognitively impaired) were less lonely and more socially engaged as a result of their interaction with PARO, than those who did not interact with the seal.
Hilda Johnson-Bogaerts, General Manager of The Selwyn Institute for Ageing and Spirituality, has been involved in the various Auckland University robotics initiatives that have taken place at the Foundation’s retirement villages since 2008 and first raised the prospect of trialling a companion robot as an aid to reduce loneliness in residents. She says:
‘We’re delighted to have won this award, which recognises our cutting-edge work in this area of diversional therapy and the wide range of positive therapeutic outcomes that we’re achieving for residents.
‘For people with mild or advanced dementia who are distressed, withdrawn or lonely, interaction with the companion seals can help reduce their anxiety levels and improve their mood.
‘The unique appearance of the robot also prompts residents to converse more with caregivers and with each other about what PARO is, what he can do and what he looks like. It therefore stimulates greater social activity and more meaningful conversation, and so residents are less lonely as a result.’
Selwyn has 13 PARO robots which are used on a one-to-one basis and in group settings with residents of its care facilities in Auckland, Hamilton and Whangarei, as well as with clients of its dementia day centres.