Paro's Goal (Purpose) and Effects
(1) Animal Therapy
Pet animals have lived together with human beings from the ancient times. People can enjoy and be relaxed by interaction with these pet animals. Many studies show that interaction with animals is useful for people to relax, relieve mental stress, and exercise for physical rehabilitation. These are the aims of Animal Therapy.
(2) Effects of Animal Therapy
Animal therapy can provide three effects for many people in various situations, from children to the elderly.
(3) Negative aspects of Animal Therapy
Most hospitals and nursing homes do not accept animals because of allergies, infections, bites and scratches they can cause. In some places, it is not allowed for people to take care of animals in an apartment. Moreover, some people who live alone have difficulty taking care of their pets by themselves.
(4) Robot Therapy
Paro has been developed since 1993 for those who cannot take care of real animals and those who live in places where pet-animals are forbidden. To study the interaction with elderly people, we have been conducting a number of long-term experiments at a Day Service Center, nursing home, and special nursing home. In the experiments, we use three questionnaires and a urinary test. The questionnaires administered to patients are "Face Scale" to study feelings and "GDS" for depression, while the "Burn-out" questionnaire is administered to the nursing staff. We also use the urinary test to ascertain the presence of various hormones in the subjects. The results of these tests allow us to confirm that interaction with Paro can provide the same effects as interaction with real animals. For example, after playing with Paro for a time, a child who could not communicate and smile for more than six months got well, and started to talk and smile again. Elderly people also showed excellent adjustment ability to stress after playing with Paro. Analysis of answers to the "Burn out" questionnaire showed that the mental burden of caregivers decreased with use of Paro in the ward. Paro also played an intermediary role between caregivers and the elderly people.
Currently, experiments using Paro are conducted at hospitals and nursing homes not only in Japan, but also in other countries such as Sweden, Italy, France, and USA. They have also showed good results comparable to the ones described above.
Referring to our experimental results, we made improvements on the previous Paro version 7 and developed version 8 with features such as safety, improved hygiene, reliability, durability, and easy maintenance.
Paro version 8 is commercialized in Japan in Sep. 2004.
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