Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Summer House residential memory care communities introduce PARO robot therapy

Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing Releases Results of Largest  
Effective Use Study of PARO to Date

Glendale, Calif. March 23, 2016 – Front Porch today announced results of a six-month use study of the therapeutic, socially assistive pet robot PARO ( with
residents at Summer House memory care neighborhoods within seven Front Porch retirement communities in California. The study demonstrates the efficacy of PARO and its benefits to residents. PARO, a therapy robot created in the likeness of a baby harp seal, was invented by Japanese engineer at AIST and MIT AgeLab research fellow Dr. Takanori Shibata after years of research. Socially assistive robotics is a growing area for geriatric research, including dementia and memory care.

“Front Porch has been using PARO very effectively at their Summer House memory care neighborhoods,” Shibata said. “Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing documented 920 instances of PARO intervention and the resulting therapeutic effects on older adults with dementia. This is the largest quantitative evaluation of PARO so far and the outcomes show the benefits of PARO for improving the behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia and reducing the usage of psychotropic medications.”

The study data demonstrated positive impact among the residents; specifically, PARO:
  • Produced calming effects for residents, in 46% of wandering and 60% of anxious behaviors
  • Helped increase social behavior by 97% among isolated adults 
  • Helped 153 out of 193 residents (79%) stay alert from initially sleepy behavior, resulting in improved moods, socialization, and appetite
  • Was used to avoid psychotropic medications in 61% of cases when medications were considered 

“We continue to be astounded by the impact on mood, social interaction and communication,” said Davis Park, director of the Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing (FPCIW) who led the six-month study at Summer House memory care neighborhoods at seven Front Porch retirement communities in California: Claremont Manor in Claremont, Fredericka Manor in Chula Vista, Sunny View in Cupertino, Vista del Monte in Santa Barbara, Villa Gardens in Pasadena, Walnut Village in Anaheim and Wesley Palms in San Diego. During the six-month study period, the FPCIW organized training sessions for caregivers and therapists to understand and utilize PARO. Staff used tracking surveys for every resident and corresponding intervention, and, as a result, collected 920 tracking surveys.

"Front Porch is exploring creative solutions to address needs for which we currently don’t have an easy solution: agitation in the middle of the night, sundowning, engaging withdrawn or isolated residents," said Kari Olson, Chief Innovation and Technology Officer, Front Porch and President, Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing. “PARO is one example of our continuing efforts to work with thought leaders and implement various modalities to bring greater wellness and quality of life to our residents based on leading edge innovations in the areas of adaptive technology, music therapy, telehealth and more.”

About PARO

PARO is a therapeutic, socially assistive pet-type robot with an appearance of a baby harp seal, as people are generally interested in interacting with robots modeled after non-familiar animals. Equipped with different kinds of sensors, including tactile, light, audition, temperature, and posture, it can respond to different stimulations given by the users, or recognize the direction of voice from them. PARO was designed by Dr. Takanori Shibata, and has been used with positive and promising results since 2003 in many countries including Japan, Denmark, Canada, Italy, and the United States. PARO is certified as a type of neurological therapeutic device by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States and includes a caregiver’s manual for robot therapy to achieve effective therapy.

About Front Porch

Front Porch is a not-for-profit ‘human serving’ organization based in Glendale, California, that serves individuals and families through full-service retirement, active adult communities, affordable housing communities and related management and development services. Front Porch retirement and active adult communities offer options ranging from independent living to skilled care, including assisted living and memory care. Founded in 1999, Front Porch embraces a leading-edge approach to enhance wellbeing with innovative communities and programs that meet the changing needs of people as they age. Front Porch serves more than 2,000 people in 10 full-service retirement communities in California and two adult living communities: one in Louisiana and one in Florida. Summer House memory care neighborhoods are located in seven Front Porch retirement communities in California.

The Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing is part of Front Porch, and strives to harness technology solutions that support and enhance wellbeing in older adults. Core initiatives focus on how technology can: assist in maintaining brain health; enhance social connectedness; promote engagement and growth; empower control over health and wellness; prevent emergencies or serious events; and increase resources and support for formal and informal caregivers. It is the winner of the Bronze Award for the Dignity category in the 2015 McKnight’s Technology Awards and the Aging 2.0 Pilot Pioneers 2015 Innovation Award. More information can be found at

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

A Technophobe's Onetime Enemy Becomes a Long-Distance Lifeline

When your son moves halfway around the world, it's not 'who ya gonna call,' but how?

Suzanne Gerber for Next Avenue

Credit: Monkey Business | Thinkstock

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with technology. When I got my first answering machine back in the '80s, it was with a mix of excitement (never missing another call!) and dread (but what if no one called?). I make no pretense of being an early adopter, but I pride myself in believing that I eventually do catch up. (Although my son will cringingly tell you that I still sometimes call my iPod a Walkman.)

Our kids are great at forcing us to keep up with the times. Years ago my son taught me the difference between ripping, burning, downloading and importing (and for a while there, I even remembered). He kept me current with cool websites (he was the first to turn me on to, for instance,
Stumbleupon, Fark and Catsinsinks) and always had me upgrade software and do smart things like defark my computer.

Years ago he made me switch from my comfortable Internet Explorer browser to Firefox (which I kept calling Foxfire, partly to piss him off and partly because I’m partly dyslexic). He was about to trash my old Explorer desktop icon when I insisted he keep it there “just in case.” He did — and labeled it “I/E: USE FIREFOX.”

When he went away to college, I knew I was in for trouble, and had him leave me the same detailed instructions for watching videos that we’d leave for foreign guests, who were clueless about our systems, and his grandparents. I’m embarrassed to admit that more than once I still had to call him for further explanation.

A typical helpful exchange would go something like this. Me: “Rory, which machine should I play the DVD in and what do I set the TV to?” Him: “MOM! It’s 10 p.m. on a Friday night and I’m at COLLEGE. What’s wrong with this picture?” Me: “There’s nothing wrong with the picture, honey, I just can’t switch the TV to Video.” CLICK.

Oh, eventually I’d figure it out. He’s always been a great teacher that way, giving me the confidence to muddle my way through. Last summer he put those teaching skills to good use — and in the process unintentionally forced my biggest tech upgrade ever. He moved to Korea to teach English.

Korea is 6,885 miles (or 11,080 kilometers) away, the farthest apart we’ve ever been for more than a few weeks. It’s also 13 or 14 hours ahead (they don’t do daylight savings), and therein lies my greatest challenge of all.

At first he wrote long, delicious emails, describing everything he’d seen, done and, especially, eaten. (That part was less delicious: I’m a squeamish vegetarian, and he’s an omnivore without a hint of a dilemma.) He’d pen these riotously funny letters about cultural exchanges and miscommunications, the bulk of which seemed to have been found emblazoned on cute girls’ T-shirts (e.g., "Mono.B Nice To Me!"; "General Educate!").

And then the emails stopped.

When I used to travel regularly, I made a point of avoiding that dreaded yet ubiquitous outcropping of modern life, the Internet café, populated, as they always were, by colorful young people in headsets, yammering away in a Babel of cacophony. You might not be able to drink the water in a town or get electricity on demand in your “hotel,” but by gum, you could always get online in some Internet café. No matter how much I missed people back home, I was determined to never become one of those … Skypers. It felt a noisy and impersonal way to connect with a loved one.

But now that my son is 6,885 miles and 13 hours away, I’ve learned all the nuances of Skype (and gchat). For starters, I always know what time it is in Korea (5:04 am, thank you, though right now, all bets are off: He’s a Rangers fan — and if you don't know what that implies, it's not worth trying to explain). I always keep half an eye on my gchat list, waiting for his name to pop up. Skype stays open — with its constant annoying dings — in hopes of a cameo appearance.

The thing I loved to hate has become my parental lifeline. I’m also not ashamed to admit I own a Skype-compatible headset and actually have used it in … Internet cafés. Anything to talk to my boy.

I can’t begin to guess what new gizmos or apps are in the works that will make reaching out and connecting easier or quicker (or offer better quality). But if anyone in some high-tech R+D department is reading this and taking requests, could I make one? Can you invent a device that would let us hug?

© Twin Cities Public Television - 2016. All rights reserved.


Friday, March 4, 2016

Protect Yourself from Health Care Scams

The Piers Project, an internet safety awareness campaign of the Center for Innovation and Wellbeing, offers helpful tips on how to stay safe online.

The Internet offers an abundance of health information resources that help consumers make more informed choices—it provides us with access to researching health conditions, medications, health services, and the ability to sign up for health plans. However, as it’s the case with many open marketplaces, it’s also important to know how to spot healthcare fraud.

Health care scams come in different forms, such as falsely presented television ads, phone calls, e-mails, or other schemes that claim the need for additional healthcare identification cards due to newly established laws. Questionable service vendors may also lure consumers through the promise of significant discounts on health insurance costs. Other types of scammers may impersonate government officials, requesting Medicare identification numbers from older adults to send updated beneficiary cards. It’s important to always remain cautious and knowledgeable of current events, as scammers often plan to execute their attacks when Medicare and other national health programs undergo changes that are widely discussed throughout the media.

Here are some tips we would like to pass on to you:

- Research to confirm if statements made are actually correct. Prior to sharing your private information, contact Medicare (1-800-MEDICARE) to confirm the mentioned changes or requests. Share what you know or have learned with your friends and relatives.

- If you are looking for medical discount plans, keep in mind that they are not a substitute for health insurance. Medical discount plans typically offer coverage for services your insurance would not reimburse. Research further to validate licensure regarding the plan.

- Exercise caution when you are shopping for products or services that specifically target older adults such as: health insurance packages, beauty or “anti-aging” products, medications and dietary/vitamin supplements, fitness equipment, medical treatments, therapies, or surgeries.

To learn more about health scams, please be sure to visit The Federal Trade Commission:

The Piers Project is funded by a gift from the family estate of Ellie Piers to benefit the Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing’s (CIW’s) ongoing mission of using technology to enhance wellbeing among older adults. Piers lived at Carlsbad by the Sea, a Front Porch retirement community in Carlsbad, CA. Her contribution allows the CIW to address Cyber Security through education, training, and the use of technologies that promote Internet safety, especially in the Greater San Diego Area.