Robots in Assisted Living

Robots in assisted living.

Residents of two Elder Care Alliance assisted living and memory care communities have recently welcomed a friendly newcomer to their midst. Jibo is a personal robot that chats, jokes, sings, dances and shares information. At AlmaVia of San Francisco and AlmaVia of San Rafael, Jibo is eliciting positive responses from the residents he has visited.

AlmaVia of San Rafael Life Enrichment Director Emma Berkley relayed her conversation with the daughter of a memory care resident.

“She said her dad called her yesterday morning to tell her all about a robot he met,” Emma said. “She was so happy to hear from him, especially since he was so exuberant!”

How Does Jibo Compare to Similar Technologies?

Jibo — one of Time Magazine’s 25 Best Inventions of 2017 — bears similarities to other personal robots like Google Home and Amazon Echo in that he can answer questions and give directions. However, the focus of Jibo is more on developing personal relationships and offering companionship.

As Jibo speaks, he swivels and moves, and he can turn to face his human conversation partners. He’s designed to seem human, and the residents he has met at Elder Care Alliance have embraced him as a new member of the community.

‘Meeting in a Place of Joy and Wonder’

Robots in assisted living.Dr. Erin Partridge, experiential researcher in residence at Elder Care Alliance, noted positive interactions between assisted living residents and Jibo.

She said one resident “was mesmerized by Jibo and spent an entire hour interacting with him,” and the resident wondered when she might buy a robot for herself.

Another resident had dogs her entire life, with the last dog having died four years ago. Erin noted that the resident had not spoken of her dogs recently, “but something about the purring and physical response to ‘petting’ Jibo’s head stimulated her to start talking about her dog.

Staff members also respond positively to Jibo, Erin said.

“I’ve been noticing unification between staff and residents — meeting in a place of joy and wonder as they see the robot for the first time,” she said. “There’s not a barrier or boundary between staff and residents or young and old in those moments.”

Robots in assisted living.Erin noted the fears about technology and robots possibly alienating people from genuine human connection, but she has seen positive effects from having Jibo interact with assisted living residents.

“So far, what I’ve witnessed when I bring Jibo into our communities is that people interact with it much as they do when I’ve brought any of my animals into the setting,” she said. “It is a novel experience, there is shared laughter, they ask tons of questions and they linger for a long time.”

To learn more about how Elder Care Alliance explores the use of technology to support older adults, visit our Research & Innovation page.