Throughout the past year, COVID-19 has impacted social relations tremendously. It has reshaped the way people communicate, affecting relationships among many. To stay connected, many discovered and adopted new communication tools for seniors to keep in touch. This was particularly true of the senior population. Due to their high vulnerability during the pandemic, their families had to introduce them to new technologies, like FaceTime and Zoom, in order to stay in touch.
Unfortunately, many seniors struggled because they were not “tech-savvy”, and their health suffered because of it. According to a 2020 study conducted by the University of Michigan, 56% of adults over the age of 50 felt isolated from others, which is nearly double the 27% who felt isolated in a study conducted in 2018. A similar increase in the feeling of lack of companionship and infrequent social contact is also shown in the study. Most concerning, other studies have shown that social isolation can increase the risk of dementia or even premature death.
For many, however, there was an easier way. Through their families and/or care facility, some seniors maintained contact and a sense of normalcy using a technological development called a telepresence robot. This robot assumes important roles to decrease the negative effects of the pandemic.
What is a Telepresence Robot?
The term telepresence refers to technology that gives a person the appearance of being present, allowing a person to feel as if they were at one location despite being at another location. Telepresence robots provide a wide range of features. They are very portable with ample audio, so the user can be heard across the room, and a screen that moves up and down allowing the user to see all the way from the ceiling to the floor. The camera and display positioning on the robot’s torso simulates the height of an average person for a more life-like experience. Click here to learn about the benefits of human-scale robots.
Telepresence Robot Use Cases
There are a wide range of use cases for telepresence robots. They enable people to communicate beyond limitations across various industries such as healthcare, senior care, education, industry, telecommuting, sports and retail. For example, rather than traveling a long way to have a face-face meeting, telepresence can allow for people to meet digitally but seem like they are in the same room. The visual aspect of this enhances communication saves a tremendous amount of time and cost due to less travel or commuting.
Telepresence Robots for Senior Care
With this exciting technology, telepresence robots have made a debut in many senior care facilities. They are easy and affordable communication tools for seniors. The Villas, located in Saratoga, California, graciously adopted a telepresence robot for their seniors to speak with their loved ones and high school volunteers.
Activities Director of the home, Ricaredo Concepcion says, “With the telepresence robot, seniors in our home will have the opportunity to talk to high schoolers, creating a new environment in our facility. It is also great to have because the high-tech robot is a main attraction.”
The facility has partnered with a program called Virtual Visits for Seniors, where high school volunteers call through a telepresence robot to provide social connection assistance such as chatting with them and organizing entertainment performances.
The telepresence robot is perfect for both the family and the senior. The senior remains hands free, with no need to fuss with a computer or smartphone to chat. For the families, telepresence robots give full control of communication, with the flexibility to drive around as they like, without the need for help from the facility staff.
Eat lunch with mom, make sure dad takes his medication, or just simply have a conversation with your parents. Telepresence is enchanting in the way it reconnects seniors, especially after social isolation. The Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida offers virtual museum tours to hospital-bound seniors. The tours give them a chance to get out of their hospital rooms and interact with their guides.
Despite the unprecedented conditions that COVID-19 poses, many seniors and their families have adjusted and successfully found new ways to embrace the new normal.
To learn more about the features of Ohmni Robot as a communication tool for seniors, click here.