A Pilot Randomized Trial of a Companion Robot for People With Dementia Living in the Community

J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2017 Oct 1;18(10):871-878. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2017.05.019. Epub 2017 Jun 28.


Objectives: To investigate the affective, social, behavioral, and physiological effects of the companion robot Paro for people with dementia in both a day care center and a home setting.

Design: A pilot block randomized controlled trial over 12 weeks. Participants were randomized to the intervention (Paro) or control condition (standard care).

Setting: Two dementia day care centers and participants' homes in Auckland, New Zealand.

Participants: Thirty dyads (consisting of a care recipient with dementia and their caregiver) took part in this study. All care recipients attended dementia day care centers at Selwyn Foundation and had a formal diagnosis of dementia.

Intervention: Thirty-minute unstructured group sessions with Paro at the day care center were run 2 to 3 times a week for 6 weeks. Participants also had Paro at home for 6 weeks.

Measurements: At the day care centers, observations of the care recipients' behavior, affect, and social responses were recorded using a time sampling method. Observations of interactions with Paro for participants in the intervention were also recorded. Blood pressure and salivary cortisol were collected from care recipients before and after sessions at day care. In the home setting, level of cognition, depressive symptoms, neuropsychiatric symptoms, behavioral agitation, and blood pressure were measured at baseline, 6 weeks, and 12 weeks. Hair cortisol measures were collected at baseline and at 6 weeks.

Results: Observations showed that Paro significantly improved facial expressions (affect) and communication with staff (social interaction) at the day care centers. Subanalyses showed that care recipients with less cognitive impairment responded significantly better to Paro. There were no significant differences in care recipient dementia symptoms, nor physiological measures between the intervention and control group.

Conclusion: Paro shows promise in enhancing affective and social outcomes for certain individuals with dementia in a community context. Larger randomized controlled trials in community settings, with longer time frames, are needed to further specify the contexts and characteristics for which Paro is most beneficial.

Keywords: Companion robot; Paro; dementia; home setting; psychosocial intervention.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Adult Day Care Centers
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Animals
  • Dementia*
  • Female
  • Human-Animal Bond*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New Zealand
  • Robotics*