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Are There Service Robots For the Elderly?


Service robots are designed to assist humans with their daily tasks and work alongside human employees to help ease labor. Simply put, the main purpose of service robots is to make our lives easier.

While service robots are often seen to be working alongside health professionals and workers from varying industries, one demographic that greatly benefits from such robots is the elderly people. Service robots or otherwise known as care robots amongst elderly people come in various shapes, sizes, and types.

In this article, we will be talking about how service robots or care robots are beneficial for elderly people and older adults in more ways than one.

Are There Robots For the Elderly For Loneliness?

Are There Service Robots For the Elderly?

As the general quality of life around the world improves, so does the longevity of the average aging population. Progress in healthcare and lifestyle have helped elderly people to live a long and fruitful life. However, this presents a challenge with regard to elder care as the supply and demand for such are constantly increasing.

Although one can avail of elder care by hiring care workers, formal and informal caregivers, and care facilities, it can be a cost burden in the long run. Alternatively, a family member can also be in charge of elder care for our elderly loved ones, but this can be a challenge for one person to take on.

One solution that is now being explored and is getting positive results as of writing is the development and adoption of eldercare robots. While hearing the term ‘eldercare robots’ would lead one to think of a human-like robot, there are actually different robots that can provide robotic support for elderly care.

Robot Pets

While robot pets are not necessarily seen as care robots, they make great companion robots for older people. They can help with independent living for elderly users who are seeking low-maintenance companionship.

Recent studies and data science also show that robot pets can help older adults who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and related health conditions that deal with cognitive decline. In fact, there are plenty of real-life stories of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s who have benefited greatly from robot pets.

A popular companion robot pet for older adults is the robot dog. A companion robot dog is able to provide social interaction that can simulate that of a real dog. Such a robot companion can help aid with physical exercises, give entertainment, and provide emotional support to help improve the mood and overall well-being of older adults in care facilities or who are enjoying independent living.

BUDDY is another example of a robot dog designed to help with independent living and elderly care. BUDDY, an advanced social robot pet, is designed after research projects and interviews conducted by ACCRA. ACCRA is a joint project venture between the European Union and Japan that aim to help older adults live independently for longer by developing robots for elderly care.

Through the data acquired and advanced artificial intelligence technology, BUDDY, the medium-sized robot dog, came to be. This robot dog is able to perform a series of complex tasks such as giving reminders of appointments in the near future, reading e-books for entertainment, and simulating cognitive activities by offering math puzzles and setting up video calls. For the elderly who need help with household tasks, BUDDY can also turn appliances on and off, patrol the home for security, and alert emergency services if needed.

Another robot pet companion that is popular amongst older adults in need of elder care and in care facilities is the robot cat. These feline robot pets are known to help cure loneliness among seniors who are socially isolated. In a study conducted by Florida Atlantic University, robot cats are effective in providing comfort and engaging with older adults and patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia illnesses. It has been noted that their behavioral and psychological symptoms such as depression, aggression, anxiety, and extreme loneliness decreased while their quality of life in healthcare facilities improved.

Generally, robot pets are great companion social robots to have for older adults, especially those who are in health care facilities or choose the independent living lifestyle. They make for perfect partners to keep a smart environment while providing daily companionship that is fuss-free. They help with their cognitive stimulation, mental health, and exercise.

Social Robots

Social robots are high-level artificial intelligence (AI) systems built into physical entities. Social robots are typically what we call robots that have cognitive capabilities therefore can provide cognitive stimulation through human-robot interaction.

There are social robots that are solely used for entertainment and cognitive stimulation. A social robot that will fall under this category is one that can mainly provide elder care through conversations, companionship, and emotional support.

However, there are socially assistive robots that not only have speech recognition to help them engage in human-robot interaction but also complex functionalities that allow them to perform tasks and provide robotic assistance. For this reason, socially assistive robots are also used as healthcare robots in some hospitals and facilities.

Although social robots are not to be seen as replacements for personal assistants, they certainly can act as such. Without the use of remote control, a socially assistive robot can navigate autonomously and create its own technical path for delivering objects and food, and remote monitoring. Such functions are helpful for elder care, especially with mid-cognitive impairment and physical limitations.

An example of a socially assistive mobile robot is the Care-O-Bot. The Care-O-Bot is a mobile robotic assistant that can support humans and provide elder care in domestic environments. With the enhanced agility of the Care-O-Bot, its field of applications and mobile manipulators are wide-ranging. Using its robotic arm or arms, the Care-O-Bot can deliver and serve drinks, place items on a tray, and be used as a trolley. This can come in handy for the elderly who need an extra hand with things.

This socially assistive robot can also help gather and store medical information, which is useful for elderly care and health professionals. To encourage human-robot interaction, the mobile robot is designed to be a “gentleman” robot. It can evoke positive emotions, make decisions based on scenarios, and move in a human-like behavior to a certain extent.

Service Robots

Developing robots for elderly care will require a lot of cutting-edge service robotics technology, artificial intelligence, and in a way, customer service capabilities. These boxes are all checked by a service robot.

A service robot can take on various tasks, which is why a wide diversity of industries make use of one. The health industry is one sector that would commonly use a service robot to help with daily tasks, and the same can be said when it comes to providing elderly care. Similar to a social robot, a service robot can provide social interaction to help aid those with mild cognitive impairment. However, a service robot would have a mobile platform and mobile manipulator that are more dedicated to providing elderly care through assistance, cleaning, and relieving physical demands.

Service robots designed for elder care can also be synonymous to care robots. These care robots can help lift older adults, assist and encourage mobility exercises, and even monitor physical activity. There are care robots that can also detect falls and contact emergency services if human elder care is needed.

More advanced service robots do not need to be remotely controlled as they would have autonomous navigation. They also have features such as object recognition and a touch screen to help make independent elder care more convenient for older adults.

What State is Giving Robot Companions For the Elderly?

Are There Service Robots For the Elderly?

Robot pets are being given away by the Broome County Office for Aging to help seniors deal with anxiety or social isolation.

This initiative by the New York State was brought about after seeing the social and behavioral effects experienced by the aging population caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The robotic support program for elderly care aims to help affected seniors dealing with social isolation, depression, and memory impairment.

Program Director, Shellie Spinelli, acknowledges how robot pets can help these affected seniors. Thus, robot pets, specifically robot dogs, robot cats, and robot birds, are being given away as companion robots to those who qualify for one.

Final Note

With initiatives from the European Union, Japan, and the States, we may be able to see the use of service robots in elderly care progress further. Hopefully, more private companies and countries will work their way to technology acceptance of using and developing robots for elderly care.

Certainly, the positive effects of using service robots in providing elderly care to help improve the quality of life of the aging population and upgrade the level of care that can be provided by health care professionals and family members are great reasons to integrate assistive robot care in programs, facilities, and for commercial use.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are 5 examples of personal service robots?

Some of the most popular personal service robots are the ElliQ, ROBEAR, SAM, Care-O-Bot, and Buddy.

ElliQ is an “aging companion” service robot that is designed to help keep older adults active, independent, and engaged. Aside from providing elder care through wellness and health monitoring, ElliQ can also provide entertainment and companionship by providing proactive suggestions, and activities, and being “social”.

ROBEAR is a nursing service robot that can help lift an older patient in a gentle manner. It’s a cartoon-shaped bear robot, which gives it a more whimsical and entertaining demeanor.

SAM is a service robot companion that helps enhances the quality of life for the elderly and despicable people. It is a human-sized service bot that can do remote monitoring, physical safety checks, and bridge communication through calls.

The Care-O-Bot is a mobile robot assistant designed to help the elderly with their daily tasks at home. It encourages social interactions, assists in mobility exercises, and is adaptable with its configurable models.

BUDDY is an emotional personal service robot pet. It’s designed to be a companion for the elderly, but it also helps teach and play with special needs children. It can offer home protection, social interaction, emotional support, and entertainment.

How much do socially assistive robots cost?

The cost of socially assistive robots will vary depending on the features and functions. Generally, one can cost from $4,200 up to $7,990.

What is human-robot interaction?

Human-robot interaction is a study of how humans and robots interact with one another. It is a multidisciplinary field that is to study the behavior and attitude of people toward robots through physical, technological, and interactive interactions.

The historical and current landscape of human-robot interactions and the use of a novel co-design toolkit can help in the development of service robots for elderly care.

Linda Takahashi

American-born New Yorker Linda Johnson has been fascinated with robotic machines since she was a teenager, when her father, a surgeon, would introduce to her the machines that he used to perform keyhole surgeries. This interest led her to pursue a tech degree at the University of Washington, where she met Sota Takahashi. They married and now have two children. Linda’s father developed dementia later on and was given a robot pet as a companion. She saw how much having a robot pet friend helped her father, which is what led her to create this website and advocate to spread word about robot pets and how they can help both children and the elderly.

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