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Robotics To Help Seniors Age in Place

5 min read



by Dr. Ryo Sanabria

Robot finger making contact with human finger, indicating how robotics can help seniors age in place

Did you know that over 77% of seniors above the age of 50 wish to age in place (aka staying in your own home as you get older)?

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However, only 1 in 5 seniors (20%) between the ages of 50 to 80 years are confident about independently managing their personal care, finances, household chores, and grocery shopping. 

Luckily, with each passing day, we are moving towards an advanced technological era where artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics are taking over many simple and even complex tasks, and seniors can take advantage of this technology to age in place. 

Technology can help with simple tasks, like providing medication reminders, helping with day-to-day activities, or providing a means to increase social interactions. More complex tasks that technology can assist with include physical therapy, mobility assistance, health monitoring, fall prevention and detection, and even providing companionship and emotional support through AI chatting interfaces. In these ways, robotics are being used to enhance the independence of seniors. 

In this blog, we will discuss how robotics can help seniors age in place, the types of robotics available, their benefits, limitations, and more. So, let’s get started.

What Are Robotics? 

Robotics is the study of machine technology known as robots. 

Robotics is a term used to describe a wide range of actions taken by robots. This can include the design and construction of robots, upgrades, and use in various industries like healthcare, manufacturing, education, and more.

A robot is a machine that is designed to carry out various complex tasks automatically. They can be programmed with tasks or trained through machine learning for higher-level performance.

Types of Robots for Seniors — How Do They Help Us Age in Place?

For seniors, robots can be used for many purposes, including the following:

Assistive Companion Robots 

One of the common problems seniors face while aging in place is loneliness and isolation. 

Companion robots are particularly designed to resemble humans or pets, so seniors can comfortably interact and communicate with them. They improve social interaction and provide companionship to seniors, reducing loneliness.

Seniors can use these robots for talking, sharing problems, playing music, providing medication reminders, and more. 

Some common examples of assistive companion robots are: 

  • Flash
  • Joy For All
  • Aibo
  • Paro 

Other, more complex assistive companion robots that have more capabilities, but are far more expensive and may be challenging for some to procure are:

  • iPal
  • Pepper

Assistive Robotic Arms 

Assistive robotic arms are useful for seniors with limited physical strength or severe physical disabilities. 

These are specialized arms with sensors and grippers that can be attached to a wheelchair, or mounted on a countertop or table. 

Robotic arms help seniors in all tasks that require physical strength and mobility, like lifting objects, brushing teeth, combing, eating, preparing meals, opening doors, and more. While robotic arms can be costly, if deemed essential for a senior’s lifestyle, some insurance companies will assist with the cost.

Some examples of robotic arms include:

  • Cylindrical robotic arms that move up and down and left and right 
  • Linear robots or Cartesian robot arms
  • Parallel robotic arms with six degrees of freedom
  • Gantry robots with three articulating joints
  • Spherical robots 

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Wearable Robots 

Wearable robots, sometimes known as wearable exoskeleton systems, are electromechanical devices that can be worn on the upper and lower body. 

They are for seniors with physical immobility, especially impaired walking and moving ability. Wearable exoskeleton systems help seniors stand up, move, and walk to carry out their day-to-day tasks. Similar to robotic arms, wearable robots may be covered by your insurance provider.

Some examples of assistive exoskeleton devices include: 

  • MindWalker
  • WPAL
  • Armeo Power

Telepresence Robots 

Staying in touch with relatives, friends, family members, and healthcare providers is a basic life necessity for everyone, especially seniors. 

A telepresence robot is a remote-controlled device that features wheels and a wireless internet connection, which enables seniors to interact with the world through video.

Examples of telepresence robots include:

  • Ohmni robots
  • Ava robots
  • Supercharge robots
  • Double 3 robots

Cleaning Robots 

Due to advanced age, seniors often face difficulty in carrying out daily cleaning household tasks and chores. 

Hiring a full-time attendant can be costly. Purchasing robots that assist in cleaning and house maintenance can be useful for seniors who wish to age in place.

Cleaning robots help seniors perform cleaning tasks, like vacuuming, mopping, window cleaning, and more. The most common types of cleaning robots are robotic vacuum cleaners and mops.

Examples of cleaning robots are: 

  • iRobot
  • Ecovacs robotics
  • Sophinique X5 window cleaning robot

Benefits of Robots for Seniors  

The benefits of robots for seniors who want to age in place include:

  • Remote communication 
  • Automation of day-to-day routine tasks, like cleaning and cooking
  • Companionship and emotional support 
  • Monitoring of vital signs, like blood pressure, body temperature, and heart rate
  • Increased independence 
  • Prevention and detection of falls
  • Enhanced mobility 
  • Improved physical strength 
  • Cognitive stimulation 
  • Rehabilitation and physical therapy 

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Drawbacks of Robots for Seniors 

Admittedly, there are numerous benefits and uses of robots for seniors. However, they also have some limitations, including: 

  • High cost: The cost of purchasing, maintaining, and upgrading robots is high. Some robots can be covered by insurance plans if deemed essential for medical reasons.
  • Difficulty in maintenance: Many robots require maintenance of some kind. Even those that perform simple tasks like automatic vacuums need to be emptied and cleaned, and automated cooking robots still require some level of preparation, which may be challenging for those with limited mobility. 
  • Difficulty in acceptance: Some seniors may feel uncomfortable or distrustful of robots.
  • Tech savviness required: Most seniors know how to handle basic technologies, like smartphones, laptops, and televisions, but face difficulty in handling new technologies, like robots.
  • Technical limitations: Although robotics and AI technology have advanced, they still have technical limitations. For example, sometimes, they may fail to understand or respond to human language and instructions. They may also fail to perform delicate tasks.

Despite these limitations, robots can provide assistance to seniors in many ways, and are a great option for people who wish to age in place.

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