Japanese retirement community uses pet robots as therapy

Many assisted living communities have used animals such as dogs and cats to help their residents feel relaxed and comforted, to ease pain, and for various other therapeutic reasons. But one nursing home in Japan, near the site of a major earthquake in March, has found another method to make its residents feel safe: robots.

According to a report in the Guardian newspaper, the Suisyoen retirement home, close to the center of Japan’s March 2011 earthquake, has been using small, stuffed seals named Paro as a way to get residents of their community to ease their stress and anxiety.

Taku Katoono, the retirement community’s manager, said that not all his assisted living residents necessarily find real animals therapeutic.

“First of all it's necessary to have a live animal to raise for animal therapy. That however is rather difficult in certain situations and so in this case we use a doll, albeit a robotic one, as an alternative method to help them recover,” Katoono told the news source.

One resident told the media outlet that the new pet has made a big difference in her life. “If I hold on to this, it doesn't matter if there's a typhoon outside, I still feel safe,” said Satsuko Yatsuzaka.