Residential aged care case study

The client and location

Our client, Baptcare is a not-for-profit organisation providing residential and community-based aged care services, as well as youth, family and disability services. We conducted the trial at Baptcare's Wyndham Lodge Community in Werribee, Victoria.

The context

In January 2013, Wyndham Lodge  invited our team to conduct a trial with a social robot, Sophie with their older residents.

People with dementia suffer a reduction in their ability to communicate and are often unable to express themselves clearly. As a result, they spend most of their time alone and not being engaged in meaningful activity. This lack of engagement contributes to negative health issues, such as a loss of physical function, social isolation, a decline in cognitive capacity, an increase in agitation and a high use of pharmaceutical interventions.

Sophie was designed to deliver diversion therapy services to the residents, including sensory enrichment services (e.g. singing and dancing), cognitive quizzes, group therapy services (Bingo and Hoy) and diet improvement suggestions.

This trial was part of our longitudinal research project on studying the engagement and acceptance of a social robot by older residents in Australian residential aged care facilities. The aims of the trials were to:

  • improve sensory enrichment and positive emotions of the residents
  • enhance social interaction (with the robot and to others) through diversion therapy services
  • facilitate positive verbal, visual and behavioural engagement of the residents
  • improve productivity, usefulness and cognitive ability through memory quizzes and reminders
  • measure the acceptance and robot experience of the older residents to the social robots.

Key services

We provided the following personalised services for 20 residents whose ages were between 65 and 90 years old.

Playing bingo

The robot was deployed to play a Bingo game with the residents. The robot called and projected the called numbers to the screen and one of the residents used the robot’s touch panel to control the pace of the game.

Singing and dancing

The robot sang and danced to music customised to the residents' taste and the residents responded by singing, clapping their hands and dancing. Multilingual music was also used to suit residents originally from different nationalities. The client feedback example shows how the robot, Sophie, interacted with a German- speaking resident.

Quiz

We designed a quiz with questions with different levels of difficulty. Our robot read the quiz aloud and projected the quiz and pictures to a screen.

Outcomes

An analysis showed the participants positively engaged with our social robots across all measures of engagement. This included positive:

  • emotional reactions
  • behavioural engagement
  • visual engagement
  • verbal and social interactions (with the robots and other people).

The acceptability analysis showed the participants had very positive attitudes towards the social robot. Most of the participants agreed or strongly agreed that Sophie made them feel better and they felt comfortable to communicate with the robot. Most of them disagreed with having concerns with the presence of Sophie.

By socially engaging older persons with our social robots through familiar games like Bingo and Hoy, we were able to break technology barriers and encourage acceptance and use of the robots.

The residents expressed interest and engaged with the technology. In one example the technology brought a resident out of social isolation. A German resident with advanced dementia who remained aloof from other residents for a long period of time (almost 3 years) expressed curiosity about the robot. She participated in singing, prompted by hearing songs in her native language. She also later participated in social activities in the nursing home.

Client feedback

"Baptcare supported RECCSI's project which investigated the effectiveness of communication robots in supporting people in aged care facilities. The project was led by Professor Rajiv Khosla and the RECCSI team at La Trobe University who is working with NEC Japan to develop emotionally enagaging companion robots for health care settings.

The organisation used the robots to interact and play games with residents. The robots were found to improve emotional and social engagement and coping with daily life."

Manager, Baptcare residential care, Victoria.