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‘Robopets’ can benefit health and wellbeing of older care home residents

 
‘Robopets’ can benefit health and wellbeing of older care home residents

Robotic pets that respond to human interaction can benefit the health and wellbeing of older people living in care homes, a study by the NIHR Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care South West Peninsula has shown.

‘Robopets’ are small animal-like robots that have the appearance and many of the behavioural characteristics of companion animals or pets.

The systematic review, published in the International Journal of Older People Nursing, brought together evidence from 19 studies involving 900 care home residents and staff and family members. Five different robopets were used in the studies – Necoro and Justocat (cats), Aibo (a dog), Cuddler (a bear) and Paro (a baby seal).

The researchers found evidence that robopets can provide comfort and pleasure and reduce agitation and loneliness.

The study also found that robopets increase social interaction with other residents, family members and staff, often through acting as a stimulus for conversation.

Lead author Dr Rebecca Abbott, from the University of Exeter Medical School, said: “Although not every care home resident may choose to interact with a robopet, for those who do, they appear to offer many benefits. Some of these are around stimulating conversations or triggering memories of their own pets or past experiences, and there is also the comfort of touching or interacting with the robopet itself. The joy of having something to care for was a strong finding across many of the studies.”

Minister for Care Caroline Dinenage said: “Modern technology has the amazing capacity to improve people’s health and wellbeing and revolutionise the care they receive. Technology can never replace human interaction, but this kind of research is incredibly important to help us assess its benefits."

"I want older people to have healthier, more connected and independent lives - we are investing £98 million to develop innovative new products - like robopets - services and treatments through our Ageing Society Grand Challenge."

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