Seal makes splash with seniors

Eight women in a Japanese nursing home eagerly await a visitor.

Their faces brighten and the mood instantly lifts when an employee brings in Fuko, who’s wearing a green and pink striped knit sweater. She remembers me, resident Taneko Suzuki squeals with delight.

“I could fly up to the sky because I feel so light and happy when she understands my feelings,” Suzuki says. “I forget all my troubles.”

The women in the dementia ward of this nursing home shower Fuko with hugs, kisses and pats. Fuko blinks, moves its head and flaps its tail in response. Fuko is PARO, a robotic seal from AIST, and one of the featured animatronics in the recent Dateline SBS special on Robot love in Japan.

“Some of them see it as an animal pet,” says employee Kenichi Moritaka. “To others like Taneko, it’s like their child. PARO has the same effect as a family visit. The residents look as happy.”

One visit from the seal can brighten residents’ spirits for the rest of the day.

“Isn’t she sweet? She’s so sweet. If I don’t see her around, I miss her,” Suzuki says, touching her nose to Fuko’s and gives an Eskimo kiss. “What a cute nose.”

The episode can be watched in full here. The nursing home segment begins at 20:40.


Topics: Alzheimer's/Dementia , Technology & IT