Hubert, the newest resident of Huber Height’s Lane Park Senior Living Community blinked two glossy, black eyes rimmed with long lashes as he craned his neck to look up at memory care director Steve McDowell.
Hubert is a PARO robot and is designed to look and act like a baby harp seal. PARO robots such as Hubert have been used since 2003 in Alzheimer and dementia care facilities around the world. Like pet therapy, these robots help patients.
Though Park Lane allows pets, pets sometimes because of behavior or other issues will not work out within the community.
Lane Park public relations representative Alex Montgomery said that Hubert was a way to give patients that sense of purpose that comes with the daily interaction and caring for a pet without the issues that might arise from a live animal.
As Hubert made his way through the facility he garnered smiles and laughter from everyone who interacted with him. McDowell said he had hopes that Hubert would be of special comfort to Irene Wells a resident who recently had to give up her dog.
Wells was visiting with family when Hubert came to call. McDowell introduced them and she began to pet him and hug him bursting into tears and then smiles.
The PARO robot has five kinds of sensors: tactile, light, audition, temperature and posture sensors, with which it can perceive people and constantly learn from its environment. This allows individual patients to develop a personal relationship with it just as they would a real pet.
“I think Hubert will be a great compliment to our BBET (Behavior Based Ergonomic Therapy) program,” McDowell said.
Wells daughter Juanita Anderson said that her mother, who lived independently before moving into Park Lane was often very angry and resentful. Because she was not as far gone as many of the other patients, she often had a hard time connecting. Anderson said that her mother’s dog, Babe, had been her constant companion since her husband passed on in October 2011.
“Since then Babe’s been all she’s had. Babe slept with her and laid on her feet. I mean real closeness. But when Babe started acting out I had to take him home,” Anderson said.
Wells continued to play with and talk to Hubert smiling the whole time. When asked what she thought of him her eyes teared up once more and she smiled, “He’s beautiful.”
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Contact this contributing writer at EricaHarrah@woh.rr.com.