Seniors battling loneliness were cheered by companion robots
Education is critical to understanding how best to care for the aging members of society. At TOMBOT SCIENCE, we curate the most important scientific research related to extending and improving quality of life for seniors with dementia and mild cognitive impairment.
During a 12-week intervention study, researchers at the University of Auckland found that institutionalized seniors who spent time with a robotic animal experienced a significant decrease in loneliness.
Many seniors in residential care facilities suffer from loneliness, anxiety and depression, but despite living in close proximity, they struggle to develop new social connections.[i]
To improve their physiological, psychological and social well-being without resorting to dangerous pharmaceuticals, many nursing homes now include animal therapy in their care models. But Hayley Robinson et al warn of potential drawbacks associated with live animal therapy: bites, infection, rambunctious behaviour, and caregivers must take time away from patients to care for the animals.
Enter the robot. According to residents who participated in the study, a robotic seal named Paro alleviated anxiety better than the resident Jack Russell terrier. Curiously, the residents spent more time interacting with Paro—touching and talking—than with the live dog, and the robot even triggered more conversation between residents.
[i] Adams, KB, Sanders, Loneliness and Depression in Independent Living Retirement Communities: Risk and Resilience Factors. Aging Mental Health 2004; 8: 475-485.
The study confirms that companion robots offer institutionalized seniors numerous benefits: a reduction in anxiety, loneliness and depression, and heightened social interaction. Not only do robots provide an adequate substitute for live animals, but they are non-threatening, sanitary and behave more democratically (i.e. spend equal time with patients). In the quest to improve seniors’ quality of life, companion robots should be viewed as a promising non-pharmacological tool.