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BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access June 25, 2019

More than just friends: in-home use and design recommendations for sensing socially assistive robots (SARs) by older adults with depression

Natasha Randall EMAIL logo , Casey C. Bennett , Selma Šabanović , Shinichi Nagata , Lori Eldridge , Sawyer Collins and Jennifer A. Piatt


As healthcare turns its focus to preventative community-based interventions, there is increasing interest in using in-home technology to support this goal. This study evaluates the design and use of socially assistive robots (SARs) and sensors as in-home therapeutic support for older adults with depression. The seal-like SAR Paro, along with onboard and wearable sensors, was placed in the homes of 10 older adults diagnosed with clinical depression for one month. Design workshops were conducted before and after the in-home implementation with participating older adults and clinical care staff members. Workshops showed older adults and clinicians sawseveral potential uses for robots and sensors to support in-home depression care. Long-term in-home use of the robot allowed researchers and participants to situate desired robot features in specific practices and experiences of daily life, and some user requests for functionality changed due to extended use. Sensor data showed that participants’ attitudes toward and intention to use the robot were strongly correlated with particular Circadian patterns (afternoon and evening) of robot use. Sensor data also showed that those without pets interacted with Paro significantly more than those with pets, and survey data showed they had more positive attitudes toward the SAR. Companionship, while a desired capability, emerged as insufficient to engage many older adults in long-term use of SARs in their home.


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Received: 2018-02-28
Accepted: 2019-05-15
Published Online: 2019-06-25

© 2019 Natasha Randall et al., published by De Gruyter

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Public License.

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