Ruby Rosenkranz and Shirley Neller love their new friend Paro.
Ruby Rosenkranz and Shirley Neller love their new friend Paro. Felicity Ripper

Robotic seal makes waves at aged care home

AN $8000 price tag on a robotic seal seems excessive but to residents of Gunther Village their cuddly companion Paro is invaluable.

"He's worth more than a million dollars,” aged care resident Shirley Neller said.

An interactive robot developed by Japanese industrial automation pioneer AIST, Paro is in his second month of brightening lives at Gayndah's Gunther Village.

According to Lifestyle Coordinator Jenny Thompson the robotic seal, who has facial recognition and responds when spoken to, has helped in decreasing symptoms of dementia in residents.

"A lot of behaviours have decreased from therapy using Paro, including agitation aggression,” she said.

Gunther Village Lifestyle Therapist Ellen Walker agrees.

"It brings a tear to our eyes,” she said.

"Residents who have had trouble opening up, in the whole time they have lived here, have now been able to do so with the help of Paro.”

Mrs Thompson said the seal has broken down barriers between patients and caregivers.

"They've begun telling us stories about their lives that we've never heard and we've learnt about pets the residents used to own,” she said.

"He creates a reminiscent experience.”

Paro has five different sensors; Tactile, light, audition, temperature and posture sensors.

He remembers each person who holds him and behaves according to their preferences.

Guinness World Records certified Paro as the World's Most Therapeautic Robot and his earlier designs have been used throughout Japan and Europe since 2003.

At $390 per month, a three-month rental of Paro has been funded by profits from Gunther Village Opportunity Shop and Gunther Village employees feel indebted to the 12 volunteers who give up their time to help in the shop.

"We're very grateful for all the hard work they put into fulfilling the resident's lives and assisting us,” Mrs Thompson said.

The op shop's volunteers have been so touched by the success of Paro they are determined to raise the money to purchase him for good.

"It's amazing to hear the spark Paro has brought to their lives,” Gunther Village Opportunity Shop Secretary Helen Cherry said.

"This community has been so supportive with their fantastic donations.”

On Saturday the shop will be holding a cent sale and fashion parade at Gunther Village at 1.30pm.

Entry is $5 and profits raised will contribute to the permanent adoption of Paro.

To give your seal of approval come down on Saturday and support Gunther Village.


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