Can a care robot boost independence and reduce loneliness?

A culturally aware robot called Pepper, created by third year robotics and science students at Middlesex University, has recently spoken in Parliament about how it and other robots can care for the nation’s elderly populations in care homes and at home.

During a recent Education Committee meeting Pepper explained that another similar robot is part of an international three-year research project called Caresses, which is jointly funded by the EU and Japanese Government in the Horizon 2020 research programme.

It is developing the world’s first culturally-aware robots aimed at assisting and caring for the elderly. Pepper said the robots could relieve pressure in hospitals and care homes as well as improve the care delivery at home and promote independent living for the elderly.

Pepper robots have already been put to the test in care homes in the country. They can carry out tasks such as giving medication, companionship and connecting to smart appliances.

The aim is for the robots to be able to communicate through speech and gestures and even detect if an older person is feeling ill or is in pain.

We are big advocates of promoting independence in the elderly and work tirelessly to reduce loneliness and social isolation.

We have previously blogged about the benefits of pets and sensory toys with the elderly in tackling loneliness and social isolation and a robot could work in much the same way. It could also alleviate stresses that come with medication management and organisation, however, we believe you can’t beat the real care, compassion and personality that comes from people like our carers.

They do more than care for our service users, they become friends, and many become so close they are thought of as part of the family, which is something we believe you would be hard pressed to find in a robot.