Japan earthquake survivors find comfort in robot seals

For some elderly survivors of Japan's March earthquake and tsunami, comfort has come in the form of a small, white robotic seal named Paro.

Returning residents of a retirement home 17 miles south of the stricken Fukushima Daiichi plant have been lent two of the robots by the manufacturer.

They are treated as pets by the residents, many still dealing with memories of the quake. "If I hold on to this, it doesn't matter if there's a typhoon outside, I still feel safe," said 85-year-old Satsuko Yatsuzaka, after she had been hugging one of the seals for about half an hour.

While some retirement homes have used animals to help with therapy for residents, the Suisyoen retirement home's general manager Taku Katoono said using therapeutic robots lowered many of the barriers normally in the way of using live animals.As the robots can only hold a charge for an hour and a half, they are normally used in the morning and then charged over lunch to be used again in the afternoon.

Local media have reported that more than half of the victims of the tsunami were over 65 years old, with survivors still attempting to heal their mental scars.

Suisyoen said that currently they don't plan on getting any more Paros, but if one resident becomes especially attached to one of them they may increase the number of furry companions for the residents.

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