A robotic baby seal could change the lives of residents with dementia at Invercargill’s Peacehaven Village.
Enliven Southland has become the only aged care provider in the South Island to own one of the seals, thanks to funding from the WD Bickley and Stewart Family Trusts.
The seal, named PARO, mimics a real baby harp seal and is highly responsive to human senses such as touch, sight and sound, and is able to interact with residents and the environment.
Studies have proven that interaction with PARO has psychological benefits to people with dementia and at Iona – the dementia wing of Peacehaven Village – its potential is already being seen.
Iona Team Leader Julie Worner says initial trials with residents had proven hugely positive.
“One lady doesn’t really talk, but as soon as we placed the seal on her lap she started to stroke him and talk, talk, talk. She was smiling and laughing even when we gave him to someone else.”
“Another lady is usually quite reserved and sits with her hands closed on her lap, but when we put the seal on her lap, she was moving her hands, stroking him, smiling and looking at him.”
Mrs Worner is excited about the potential of the seal, which could have huge and positive implications for residents, their families and care workers.
International studies have shown in some cases, sessions with PARO have prompted non-verbal elderly dementia patients to start talking after years of little to no communication, and in others, the calming effect of the seal has reduced the need for medication.
Enliven Southland Director Julia Russell said while the concept of PARO was simple, its impact on residents at Iona could be life changing.
“Peacehaven Village is the sole provider of psychogeriatric care in Southland, meaning we have the most advanced and complex dementia residents in the region,” she said.
“Their quality of life is very important to us and we are constantly seeking ways to enhance their wellbeing. PARO will act as a therapeutic intervention tool, to aid in improving the lives of those with dementia.”