Robots and Smart Computers Are Adding To Care Home Facilities
A handful of NHS trusts are experimenting with the use of robots and smart computers to enrich care home facilities. Recently, the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Brighton have collaborated to back a research project using a robot called Paro.
Paro, designed in Japan, looks like a cuddly seal toy, but is in fact a highly sophisticated computer. It has a basic form of artificial intelligence which allows it to move at the sound of a voice or in response to being stroked.
The researchers believe that interacting with Paro can help people in elderly care homes – including some with dementia – to feel more comfortable in that environment.
So far, Paro seems to be helping to calm older residents who might be distressed. The seal allows them to benefit from some of the comforts of looking after a real pet – something they can no longer do after moving into residential care.
“For some people he might provoke memories of giving, caring, loving,” says Dr Penny Dodds, a nurse and lecturer at the University of Brighton. “For other people it might be that he helps soothe and relax, and reduce anxiety and distress. We might use him as an alternative to medication to reduce anxiety.”
Research into the benefits of robots to add to care home facilities is still at a very early stage, and currently no definitive conclusions can be reached on their value for the elderly. However, researchers say it’s conceivable that the seal, which costs about £3,300, could be adopted more widely in the NHS.