The design of some existing pet robots for people with dementia do not sufficiently consider their preferences. For example, while some pet robots are designed to resemble unfamiliar animals such as a dinosaur or seal, people with dementia seem to prefer more familiarly designed pets, such as domestic animals like cats and dogs. As little research has been done into pet robot design preferences of people with dementia further investigation is needed.
Explanation and Examples
One of the most researched and used pet robots in dementia care is PARO, a robotic baby harp seal. The developer of PARO anticipated that users are likely to be more accepting of PARO, since they are less likely to have experiences and expectations of a seal. However, Bradwell and colleagues found that older adults including people with dementia have expressed a preference for familiar animals such as cats and dogs. A qualitative study uncovered similar findings – Care providers in nursing homes expressed that residents with dementia may prefer and react better to familiar animals. In line with a person-centred approach to care, the use of pet robots should account for the preferences and needs of people with dementia. However, there is a lack of studies that have explicitly investigated such design preferences. More studies are necessary to bridge this gap.
ThemesDementia Older adults People with dementia Pet robots Psychosocial impact Robotic pets Social robots
Target groupsDementia care organisations (nursing homes & day care centres) Dementia researchers Healthcare professionals Nursing homes Social robot designers/developers
Type of evidence
Scoping review, qualitative content analysis, qualitative study (interviews with care providers)
Koh, W.Q., Toomey, E., Flynn, A. & Casey, D. (2022). Determinants of implementing of pet robots in nursing homes for dementia care. BMC Geriatrics, 22(1), 457, 1-12. doi.org/10.1186/s12877-022-03150-z
Bradwell, H. L., Edwards, K., Shenton, D., Winnington, R., Thill, S., & Jones, R. B. (2021). User-centered design of companion robot pets involving care home resident-robot interactions and focus groups with residents, staff, and family: Qualitative study. JMIR rehabilitation and assistive technologies, 8(4), e30337. https://rehab.jmir.org/2021/4/e30337