Research Matters

Research Matters

Robots for Aging


James Juola, KU professor of psychology, is helping to program a robot to serve the elderly. He said a rapidly aging population requires a technological solution to the booming demand for in-home care.

Episode #80



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Within five years, robots could replace human caregivers in the homes of older people. From the University of Kansas, this is Research Matters. I'm Brendan Lynch.

James Juola, KU professor of psychology, is helping to program a robot to serve the elderly. He said a rapidly aging population requires a technological solution to the booming demand for in-home care.

"Demographics are really what spurred this project," said Juola. "In western nations and parts of Asia, the aging population is increasing enormously. We have a much larger percentage of the population aged 65 or older - and about half the population over 85 is showing signs of dementia. At the same time, the proportion of people available to provide the needed services and economic resources to support the elderly population is declining.”

Juola is a lead investigator in the Knowledgeable Service Robots for the Aging project, dubbed K-SERA.

"It'll have to track and follow the human and be available to it," Juola said. "It's being trained to recognize a certain individual and be constantly on-hand as an aide to communication " to remind the person of things they need to do, like take their medicine or have a drink of water - and also as an immediate link to medical personnel or family members in case the user needs assistance."

Monitoring its human partner will be one of the most important tasks for the K-SERA robot; with infrared sensors and video cameras, the robot will know if a person's behavior is abnormal.

"In some cases, the robot will initiate conversations," said Juola. "If a person does anything unusual - like oversleep, or stay too long in the bathroom or fall down - then the robot will be attentive to these unusual aspects of a person's behavior. The robot will form inquiries and, if necessary, interventions to call attention to the fact that that person is having a problem."

For more on robots for the aging, log on to Research Matters dot KU dot EDU. For the University of Kansas, I'm Brendan Lynch.

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