Robotic seal engages residents in memory care.

PARO, the robot baby harp seal, squeaks, wiggles and coos but most importantly engages many residents diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia. Numerous studies, including one most recently published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, have demonstrated its behavioral, emotional and social impact on older adults, as well as its important value as a caregiving tool.

Following pilot testing at Sunny View Retirement Community by the Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing (FPCIW), PARO is now widely used at Summer House memory care neighborhoods at Front Porch retirement communities.

PARO employs a 32-bit CPU and sensors that recognize touch, light, sound, temperature and position. It responds by wiggling, squeaking and moving its body and blinking its eyes. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has also designated it as a “Class II medical device,” the same designation as a wheelchair.

Staff use PARO as a tool to help promote social interaction, reduce stress, anxiety and self-isolation and to increase resident engagement.

During the initial five-month pilot at Sunny View, one of the pilot’s findings revealed that when caregivers brought Paro out to help residents who experienced bouts of anxiety or wandering, it reduced the need for anxiety medications by 30 percent.

In a 2015 six-month study, FPCIW produced a report based on 920 tracking surveys from Front Porch life enrichment and care staff across the six Summer House memory care neighborhoods. Community staff and resident feedback about PARO  have been overwhelmingly positive. The PARO robot devices are shown to have …

  • Produced calming effects for residents, in 73% of wandering and 59% of anxious behaviors
  • Helped increase social behavior by 97% among isolated adults
  • Helped 153 out of 193 residents (79%) stay alert from initially sleepy behavior, resulting in improved moods, socialization, and appetite
  • Helped residents to avoid psychotropic medications in 61% of cases when medications were considered

With such positive results from the pilot and the follow-up study, Front Porch’s four philanthropic partners, FACT FoundationPacific Homes FoundationCalifornia Lutheran Homes and Sunny View Foundation were enthusiastic about funding the purchase of a Paro for the Summer House memory care neighborhoods at Walnut VillageClaremont ManorFredericka ManorVista del MonteWesley PalmsVilla Gardens, Sunny View and other Front Porch community memory care programs.

Read the CIW’s Final Report about PARO.

Browse our PARO photo gallery.

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