Meal-Time with a Socially Assistive Robot and Older Adults at a Long-term Care Facility

Derek McColl, Goldie Nejat


As a person gets older, his/her ability to perform basic self-maintenance activities can be diminished due to the prevalence of cognitive and physical impairments or as a result of social isolation. The objective of our work is to design socially assistive robots capable of providing cognitive assistance, targeted engagement and motivation to the elderly in order to promote participation in self-maintenance activities of daily living. In this paper, we present the design and implementation of the expressive human-like robot Brian 2.1 as a social motivator for the important meal-eating activity. A pilot study is conducted at an elderly care facility with the robot and eight elderly individuals, aged 82-93, to investigate user engagement and compliance during meal-time interactions with the robot as well as overall acceptance and attitudes towards the robot. The results of the study show that high rates of engagement and compliance were achieved during two different meal-eating scenarios with the robot. A post-study robot acceptance questionnaire also determined that, in general, the participants enjoyed interacting with Brian 2.1 and had positive attitudes towards the robot for the intended activity.


Human-robot interaction; socially assistive robot; meal-time assistant; older adults; user engagement and compliance; robot acceptance

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