The cute cooing sounds, the gentle movements and the lovable rolling eyes have been known to unlock the silence in even the most disengaged memory care resident of The Inn at Cypress Cove.
The sounds come from a lovable robotic furry white harp seal named, Snowball.
“It’s amazing. Snowball, as residents have so applying named the robotic seal, manages to get even our most removed memory care resident to become active and excited. Everyone wants to hold him, pet him and talk with him.” says Karla Oliver Director of Assisted Living and Memory Care at Cypress Cove.
The picturesque 48-acre south Fort Myers continuing care retirement community in HealthPark Florida is one of a few dozen community’s nationally whose memory care facility has adopted a cuddly harp seal robot as part of its therapeutic program. The Federal Drug Administration has certified the seal as a Class 2 medical rehabilitative device.
It’s a designation that you’ll get no argument from Oliver. Snowball, she explains, has been an instant hit with Cypress Cove memory care residents from the moment the white ball of fur arrived a year ago. The seal has a powerful emotional effect, eliciting feelings of compassion and pleasure.
At Cypress Cove memory care facility, some residents ask to “babysit” Snowball. But it’s the effect that Snowball has on some residents who have progressed to a point in their dementia that they no longer socially interact. “I have seen the faces of some of those residents just light up…and they grab Snowball, hug him and start talking,” relates Oliver.
Administrators of Cypress Cove’s memory care program are careful to ensure that Snowball be a therapy item, not a “babysitter.” Interaction created between Snowball and residents have also given memory care staff an insight into the character of each individual (an important element for developing personalized programs).
Snowball’s computerized circuitry is extremely intuitive and under its furry body is dotted a variety of sensors that detect touch, light, sound and temperature – allowing it to respond to these senses in an almost lifelike manner.
Although not scientifically charted, Oliver says there has been a strong positive resident response to the interjection of Snowball into Cypress Cove’s memory care programming. “There have been repeated examples of success because of Snowball’s use – more socialization, less anxiety, greater engagement,” she adds.
The addition of Snowball is one of a number of unique and innovative therapy programming tools now available in Cypress Cove’s memory care program. More therapy program innovations will be added after the opening of the community’s visionary state-of-the-art memory care household, The Cottage.
Construction of The Cottage will be completed within a few months. When the new 45,000 sf facility opens, it will feature some the industry’s most innovative architectural and program approaches to memory care living. And if Oliver has her way, Snowball may just find a companion seal waiting for him when he moves into The Cottage.