Senior Living Residents Test New Technology

CAST | February 13, 2017 | by Donna Childress

Virtual reality, robots, and more undergo rigorous testing in today’s retirement communities.

Retirement communities are the perfect environment in which to test devices that will help older adults, says a recent article in the New York Times.
In communities throughout the nation, residents are testing new technology for companies like OhmniLabs that are looking to solve issues like isolation, loneliness, and lack of caregivers for older adults with devices such as a telepresence robot.
For example, testing reveals that virtual reality headsets by companies such as Rendever are taking residents back to places they used to live, sparking memories in those who have cognitive impairments. Rendever will be participating in LeadingAge Basecamp at PEAK Leadership Summit in the Start-Up Zone 6, March 19-22, 2017, in Washington, DC.
The Amazon Echo voice-control speaker, which can offer companionship and assist those who have visual impairments, is another example of technology being tested by older adults. So is a rehabilitative robotic leg that assists people who have had joint replacements.
While individual residents can agree to be testers in some senior living facilities, some providers have even set up programs to facilitate testing. California retirement communities organization Front Porch has a Center for Technology Innovation and Wellbeing that facilitates research and innovations for older adults. Front Porch, a founding CAST Patron, is currently experimenting with offering ride services through Amazon’s Alexa voice-command. Front Porch also is evaluating the rehabilitative robotic leg, mentioned above, with seniors living in their communities. “We are a bridge [between new technology companies and seniors],” said Davis Park, director of the Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing, about the role the center plays. 

Brookdale Senior Living has an Entrepreneur in Residence program that it says helps spark innovation for the aging. To test devices and ideas, entrepreneurs can spend five days living with seniors to better understand older adults’ wants and needs.
Looking to introduce robots in your senior living facility? Someone’s already tested the effectiveness of various robotic personalities.
Recent research published in the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies and reported in McKnight's Senior Living shows that your robot's demeanor affects how people respond to it. In a study of 51 residents at a retirement home in Pennsylvania revealed that residents preferred companion robots offering emotional support to act serious and assistant robots to be playful.