Truro College Alumni uses robot animals to support people with dementia

Truro College alumni Hannah Bradwell is using psychology and robotic technology in the form of interactive pets that are bringing comfort to people with dementia in care homes across the country.

Hannah Bradwell is standing in front of a brown and white background. She is smiling

Hannah Bradwell, Truro College Alumni

Currently working on her Ph.D. alongside eHealth Productivity and Innovation in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (EPIC), a collaborative project seeking to facilitate a sustainable eHealth sector in the region, and improve people’s health and wellbeing with technology. Hannah, from Camborne, has been researching the use and impact of robotic animals on the wellbeing of older people experiencing various stages of dementia, even as a potential alternative to costly pharmaceutical options currently available. Working collaboratively with Cornish product designers Robotriks, the group are researching and creating a more affordable and effective pet companion that can stimulate a dramatic response.

Talking about her experience, Hannah said: “You’re seeing the real impact when you know you’re reducing agitation and sadness for a person with dementia, and even potentially reducing their use of medication."

“We’ve had an older lady who was non-verbal, she’d been non-verbal for about eight months. After eight weeks interacting with the robots, she was speaking full sentences to her family members.”

Beginning her path into academia, Hannah started studying psychology for A Level at Truro College, but extenuating circumstances found her deferring from university, eventually choosing to continue her studies with Truro College. Enrolling on the HND in Applied Psychology at the Penwith campus before graduating with a BA (Hons) in Human Behavioural studies in 2016, Hannah has fond memories of the education she received at the College, recalling a nervous start to Higher Education.

“I remember being terrified on the first day of the HND” she said. “Thinking ‘I’m not going to be able to do this, I’m not going to be able to do a degree.’"

“Those feelings disappeared quickly because of the quality of the teaching and the support you get on the HND and the BA is just, exceptional.”

Hannah has nothing but praise for the teaching team behind one of the College’s most popular Higher Education courses, saying: “I have so much to be thankful to them and this College for, I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support that they gave me. They’re so good. They really are.” Hannah went on to explain that the knowledge she gained at Truro College was a perfect springboard from which to continue academically into her Masters and Doctorate.

Keen to express how important it was for her to be able to remain in Cornwall to support her family, Hannah said: “To be able to stay in Cornwall, for whatever reason it is, but to still be able to get a top-quality education that you can genuinely start an academic career with is fantastic.”

People walking on the beach with several dogs

Hannah and friends on a Wolfpack Walk

Staying in Cornwall has also meant Hannah remains close to the friends she made at Truro College whom she frequently meets up with for ‘Wolfpack Walks’ with their dogs on various beaches in the county.

As for the future, Hannah is intending to stay in Cornwall and continue with academic research and is enthusiastic as to how far her work can go in the future to improve people's lives.

If you’re thinking of continuing your education or looking to return, a full range of Higher Education courses in a variety of areas is available right here in Cornwall.