Soon you may see more and more companion robots in senior living, with older adults eager to try out this new technology. A recent article in Senior Housing News featured several researchers' takes on robots. 

In a recent pilot, a two-foot robot named Nao visited a Brookdale Senior Living community in Arlington, TX, with researchers from the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) and the Texas-Arlington Research Institute (UTARI). Nao, which challenged the residents to give the final lines of a Shakespeare sonnet and can do things like shake hands and join residents for tai chi, was a hit.
“We did have significant decreases in depression and significant increases in engagement,” said Dr. Julienne Greer, assistant professor of theatre arts at UTA, told Senior Housing News. “Older adults really did find this futuristic machine… quite fascinating…. I think it would make the residents thrilled to be able to have that kind of connection every day.”

Robots have potential in senior living, especially companion robots such as ElliQ, Jibo, Pepper, and Kuri that help older adults communicate or remind seniors to do tasks, said Dr. Chaiwoo Lee, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) AgeLab.
“A lot of people who are working in robotics are going this way,” Lee said in “Senior Living Sees Slow But Steady Robot Revolution.” “This is something we’ll see in the near future, I think.”
For now, robots are less useful than assistive devices like smartphones, tablets, and virtual reality headsets that older adults can easily understand and use to stay independent, said Dr. Elizabeth Zelinski, a professor of gerontology and psychology at the USC Davis School of Gerontology.

Yet recent research shows that older adults are willing to let robots to help with tasks, Dr. Wendy Rogers, a professor of applied health sciences at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said in the article. She agrees that robots will show up more often in the near future.

“Advances in artificial intelligence (AI), especially speech recognition and natural language processing, are finally making robotic companions and voice assistants practicable and applicable to senior living,” explained Majd Alwan, CAST executive director. “However, physical robotic embodiments that are capable of providing meaningful physical assistance will always lag behind these software applications, which are starting to gain traction in senior living,” he added. 

Speaking of robots, 4,000 retirement community residents in San Jose, CA, can now call a self-driving taxi to travel the 15 miles of roads at The Villages Golf and Country Club. Voyage, a spin-off of online education company Udacity, is rolling out the program after a successful pilot. Retirement communities, with their low speeds, are good places to test self-driving cars before tackling public roads, says a recent article in McKnight's Senior Living.  

If you are interested in self-driving cars, please check out the Technology Deep Dive on Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017, at the LeadingAge Annual Meeting & EXPO.
Care to explore companion robots, robotic companion applications, virtual coaches, or voice assistants for your facility? Check out the new Social Connectedness and Engagement Technology Selection Tool from LeadingAge CAST, which will explain how to choose the best solution for your organization, present a list of options to help you narrow your choice, and share the experience of providers who used these technologies.