Robot & Grandma: Robotic Care Could be Next Big Thing in Senior Living

| December 4, 2012

Seniors’ willingness to accept robotic assistance may be an indicator of how care is delivered in assisted and skilled nursing communities in the future, or create a viable alternative to moving into those communities entirely, according to a study conducted by Georgia Tech. 

Conducted at Georgia Tech’s Human Factors & Aging Laboratory, the study focused on a group of 21 seniors ages 65-93 who felt “slightly likely” robots could aid them in their daily lives. 

The majority (71.4%) of those seniors said they were familiar with computers and had been Internet users for at least five years. While many participants said they frequently used modern technologies such as microwave ovens, cell phones, telephone answering machines, recording and playback devices, their experience with and knowledge of robots was far less. 

Despite the participants’ limited experience with robots, the study notes that seniors’ attitudes toward them were not negative. 

Older seniors are willing to use assistive robots in their daily lives, the study suggests, based on general measures of technology acceptance that have been used to predict and explain technology use, finds Georgia Tech. 

The study notes that seniors’ acceptance increased after a demonstration video of robot engineering team Willow Garage’s PR2, an open platform that allows changes to meet specific needs at any level.

Part of the PR2′s appeal is that it is designed to be durable, allowing for experimentation with new ideas and applications directly on the robot, according to Willow Garage’s description. 

After the video, participants claimed they were “slightly likely” to accept robots, as the PR2 could help with household chores seniors’ desired for robot help. Duties such as cleaning, ironing, running errands, gardening and lifting heavy objects were recurring themes among participants. 

“By assessing older adults’ acceptance of robots and including older adults early on in the design process, designers will be able to develop robots that are more likely to be accepted and adopted by older users,” said Georgia Tech.

Georgia Tech concluded its study by saying the participants included in the survey were relatively healthy, independent elders. Additionally, the study concludes, there is a need to extend robotic research to older adults such as those living in assisted and skilled nursing residences who have greater needs for assistance.   

Written by Jason Oliva


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Category: Independent Living, Senior Housing, Senior Living, Technology

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  1. James says:

    Nice article. The problem with using the PR2 as the robot in the study is that it is very expensive–largely impractical for senior living care. A better approach might have been to show a Robai Cyton, which, with its small size and imperfections, represents a more economically practical platform.