The Future of Robots and Older Adults

CAST | February 10, 2022 | by Donna Childress

See how robots may one day offer self-care, social engagement and emotional support, medical assistance, and more to senior living.

In the coming years, robots may be able to provide assistance with basic daily and medical tasks and with emotional support, according to “Robots rise to meet the challenge of caring for old people.” This feature article in Nature introduces several researchers and how they are designing robots for use in healthcare settings and senior living.
The article predicts that “…in a few years, robotic assistants might routinely feature in older people’s homes, helping them to care for themselves, providing emotional support, and allowing remote access for doctors and nurses. In retirement homes, they could entertain residents or help with cleaning.”

LeadingAge Members Pilot Robots

LeadingAge member Knollwood Military Retirement Community participated in the development of Stevie the robot, helping researchers learn how robots can best assist in senior living and how older adults react to robots. LeadingAge member Longhorn Village is also piloting robots; learn more in this recent Tech Time article.

From Social Engagement to Telenursing

Today’s research is about more than designing a robot to complete simple tasks, said the Nature article. Researchers are studying how robots affect residents’ emotional and physical health, promote social engagement, and improve staff turnover.
Also under development are telenursing robots that enable a patient to receive care without direct contact with a nurse, which can prevent infection, or to monitor and record patients’ vitals. Telenursing robots can perform more complex tasks if run remotely by a medical professional.

Personal Care Robots Tap Artificial Intelligence

Machine learning is helping a personal care robot to do nuanced tasks, such as dressing people without pulling too hard on the clothes, according to Charles Kemp, Hello Robot co-founder and director of the Healthcare Robotics Lab at Georgia Tech. Kemp told Nature that robots are making good progress in helping people with some activities of daily living but that for full adoption, caregivers, older adults, medical professionals, and insurers must embrace robots.

More on Robot Advances

To learn more, read the full article in Nature.
See these recent Tech Time articles for more examples of robots in action in senior living:  “Robots to Watch,” “Food Services Group Pilots Robot,” “Servi Robot Improves Mealtime at CCRC,” and “Amazon Offers New Innovations for Senior Care.”