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Technology meets animal therapy

Animals have a positive effect on us (which is probably why we enjoy watching cat videos so much). Turns out that apart from giving us the giggles or the warm and fuzzies having a pet may improve your overall physical and mental health.

According to the US’s National Centre for Health Research, blood pressure is reduced during stressful times for people with pets, as opposed to those without them. The Centre’s studies have found correlations between having a companion animal close and reduced anxiety, which, in turn, amounts to a healthier hearts owing to generally lower heart rates.

In a large study of 11,000 Australian and German participants, it was found that pet owners are notably in better overall physical health than non-pet owners, and they make around 15 per cent fewer doctor’s visits each year. A similar study of Chinese women found that when they own a companion animal, they take fewer sick days at work each year (and also slept better).

In terms of general stress levels, stroking a dog or cat, watching fish in a bowl, and even touching a pet snake have all been tested in research and found to be stress reducers. Which is probably why various forms of animal therapy have been adopted by hospitals across the world.


However, what happens if live animals present treatment or logistical difficulties?

This is where technology steps in. There are a wide number of substitute animals that can help people with an number of conditions, including people who live with dementia.

These aids help reduce stress, increase interaction and socialization and improve relaxation and motivation. Anyone who has a loved one who lives with dementia will know how important those factors are to both their loved one and their caregivers.

The model getting the most press these days is the interactive PARO health bots designed by Dr Takanori Shibata from Japan. These health bots are benefiting the residents and clients of the dementia units, dementia day services, rest homes and hospitals nationwide.

Modelled on a baby Canadian Harp seal, it responds to touch and other stimuli in its environment by making soft noises, moving its head and tail, and opening its eyes.

Activity coordinators, Diversional Therapists and the residents themselves all have giving positive feedback to these therapy robots.

To have a look at a range of robotic animals, head to Equipment and Products here on Eldernet.


About Eve Williams

Eve Williams
Eve Williams is the Production and Social Media Administrator for Eldernet. She has a passion for learning new things.

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