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The Alzheimer Society of Ireland hosts online workshop examining use of social robots in dementia care

Wednesday 20 January 2021

The Alzheimer Society of Ireland (ASI), in collaboration with NUI Galway and IT Sligo, hosted a successful free online workshop that sought to describe how social robots are being used in dementia care, and explore how they may be used in future care models in Ireland.

As part of the Erasmus+ funded Prospero project, the online workshop, "Using Social Robots in Dementia Care - Current Challenges and Future Possibilities", took place on 20 January 2021. Over 110 delegates, from countries across Europe including the United Kingdom, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Malta, Greece and Belgium, attended the event.

Delegates at the workshop came from a variety of backgrounds, including social care practitioners, dementia experts, family carers, academics, roboticists, nursing students and occupational therapists. They had the opportunity to listen to a range of presentations describing current practice.  For example, The ASI is currently using Paro, the most widely researched care robot on the market. Paro is a therapeutic baby seal who responds to conversation and touch, which can bring comfort and a sense of purpose to people living with dementia. The ASI's External Learning and Development Manager, Fergus Timmons said: “A big element in dementia care is pet therapy, where a real animal is brought into a dementia setting to give comfort to residents. Having a robot like Paro can provide the same comfort and engagement levels can be really therapeutic for people with dementia.”

Delegates also participated in an interactive workshop to express their views on the future of social robots in dementia care. Many agreed that social robots can provide complementary care, but that more thought needs to go into robot design and functionality. Many other issues were raised, including those of cost versus benefit of using a robot and the importance of tailored and flexible design for the specific needs of people with dementia.

This workshop was funded by Erasmus+ Strategic Partnerships for Higher Education, and is part of the Prospero project which aims to examine and devise new ways of teaching future care professionals about how social robots can be used.

Pictured: Orchard Day Care Centre Manager Mary Hickey with Paro