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Socially assistive robots can be useful in providing companionship, completing servant-like functions like chores, and conducting daily tasks safely

Vandemeulebroucke T, De Casterlé B, Gastmans C.  How do older adults experience and perceive socially assistive robots in aged care: A systematic review of qualitative evidence  Aging & Mental Health. 2018; 22(2): 149-167.

Review question

      How do older adults experience and perceive socially assistive robots in caring for the aged?

Background

      The aging population is presenting greater care demands to meet the healthcare and social needs of older adult populations. Socially assistive robots with various functions in caring for the aged, such as companion-type robots or service robots that focus on social interaction, have become a potential solution.

      There is a vast amount of knowledge about the potential impact of socially assistive robots in the care of aging individuals. For example, the use of robots to assist with specific physical tasks like feeding and showering is more effective than using robots for more sophisticated tasks.

      This systematic review aimed to explore existing knowledge and understanding of how older adults experience, perceive, think, and feel about the use of socially assistive robots in care settings.

How the review was done

      A detailed search of a number of electronic databases for studies published through January 2016 was conducted. Studies that focused on the experience and social perception of socially assistive robots among older adults were included in the review.

      A total of 1,454 studies were identified in searches, and 23 were included in the review after assessments for eligibility.

      The authors did not acknowledge any funding sources for this review.

What the researchers found

      Based on the findings of this review, four themes were identified in relation to the use of socially assistive robots by older adults. These themes are: the role of socially assistive robots; the interactions between older adults and both technically and human-like socially assistive robots; the appearance of socially assistive robots; and the ethical issues related to socially assistive robots in settings tailored to the aging population.

      More specifically, socially assistive robots were deemed useful in providing companionship, completing servant-like functions like chores, and conducting daily tasks safely.

Conclusion

      The perceptions of socially assisted robots by older adults are both positive and negative in caring for the aged. However, this systematic review provides evidence to support the potential usefulness of socially assistive robots when considering the expected healthcare demands due to the aging population.

      Pursuing the understanding of older adults’ lived experiences with such robots allows for technological innovation to play a role in healthcare resource management in the future.




Glossary

Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.

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