The PARO robot is designed to look like an adorable baby harp seal. Covered in pure white synthetic fur, the built-in intelligence provides psychological, physiological, and social effects through physical interaction with human beings. PARO not only imitates animal behavior, it also responds to light, sound, temperature, touch and posture, and over time develops its own character. As a result, it becomes a "living" cherished pet that provides relaxation, entertainment, and companionship to the owner. It is perfect for those who cannot take care of real animals and those who live in places where live animals are prohibited, "Because he is so cute and interactive … he does nuzzle and close his eyes, anything that a pet does, he elicits a positive response from the elderly who reminisce about their pets" said Jackie Bowser, program manager at GP down south. PARO has been used for aged and dementia patients as a means to provide company and to assist with behaviour. Patients sometimes get frustrated and PARO calms them down. Frustration and anxiety melt away into smiles. GP down south used to run a program where we would lend PARO out to hospitals with permanent dementia patients. That program ended several years ago and we have decided to donate PARO to the Harvey Hospital as they were one of the sites included in the program and as they still care for permanent dementia patients. GP down south CEO, Amanda Poller says, ‘we were delighted that they were ready to ‘adopt’ PARO on a full-time basis. Costing around $8, 000 it is a fabulous resource for a regional hospital.’ PARO produces such a powerful emotional effect because it stimulates the senses on different levels and seems to communicate with people. It elicits feelings of compassion and pleasure that animals do. But unlike a living animal, it is not threatening and it just seems to touch some people the way that other people cannot.
GP down south is an exemplary not-for-profit community organisation. We have been providing health and wellbeing services in the Peel regions and the South West of WA since 1994.