skip to main content

Title: Social Robotics to Address Isolation and Depression Among the Aging During and After COVID-19
COVID-19 is exacerbating isolation issues faced by older adults, which may lead to increased risk for depression and other mental health issues. Social robots are being explored for their potential to alleviate these challenges through conversational therapy, companionship, and connectedness regardless of where older adults chose to age in place—from home to long-term care facilities. This is a discussion piece with the objective of raising awareness to the topic of social isolation within older adults and current limitations in the field of social robotics. We discuss the state of the art in social robotics for aging in place and bring attention to remaining challenges for addressing isolation and mental health especially during and after COVID-19. This paper provides a discussion on critical differences between environments where older individuals age, and how designs should account for these variations. Lastly, this paper highlights the physical and mental health issues of caregivers and provides a discussion of challenges that remain toward using social robotics to assist those who take care of the aging population.
Authors:
;
Award ID(s):
1828010
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10344399
Journal Name:
23rd International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction (HCII 2021)
Volume:
1420
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
164–171
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Worldwide, at the time this article was written, there are over 127 million cases of patients with a confirmed link to COVID-19 and about 2.78 million deaths reported. With limited access to vaccine or strong antiviral treatment for the novel coronavirus, actions in terms of prevention and containment of the virus transmission rely mostly on social distancing among susceptible and high-risk populations. Aside from the direct challenges posed by the novel coronavirus pandemic, there are serious and growing secondary consequences caused by the physical distancing and isolation guidelines, among vulnerable populations. Moreover, the healthcare system’s resources and capacity have been focused on addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, causing less urgent care, such as physical neurorehabilitation and assessment, to be paused, canceled, or delayed. Overall, this has left elderly adults, in particular those with neuromusculoskeletal (NMSK) conditions, without the required service support. However, in many cases, such as stroke, the available time window of recovery through rehabilitation is limited since neural plasticity decays quickly with time. Given that future waves of the outbreak are expected in the coming months worldwide, it is important to discuss the possibility of using available technologies to address this issue, as societies have a duty to protect the mostmore »vulnerable populations. In this perspective review article, we argue that intelligent robotics and wearable technologies can help with remote delivery of assessment, assistance, and rehabilitation services while physical distancing and isolation measures are in place to curtail the spread of the virus. By supporting patients and medical professionals during this pandemic, robots, and smart digital mechatronic systems can reduce the non-COVID-19 burden on healthcare systems. Digital health and cloud telehealth solutions that can complement remote delivery of assessment and physical rehabilitation services will be the subject of discussion in this article due to their potential in enabling more effective and safer NMSDK rehabilitation, assistance, and assessment service delivery. This article will hopefully lead to an interdisciplinary dialogue between the medical and engineering sectors, stake holders, and policy makers for a better delivery of care for those with NMSK conditions during a global health crisis including future pandemics.« less
  2. Isaacowitz, Derek (Ed.)
    Abstract Objectives Theories of aging posit that older adult age is associated with less negative emotions, but few studies have examined age differences at times of novel challenges. As COVID-19 spread in the United States, this study therefore aimed to examine age differences in risk perceptions, anxiety, and depression. Method In March 2020, a nationally representative address-based sample of 6,666 U.S. adults assessed their perceived risk of getting COVID-19, dying if getting it, getting quarantined, losing their job (if currently working), and running out of money. They completed a mental health assessment for anxiety and depression. Demographic variables and precrisis depression diagnosis had previously been reported. Results In regression analyses controlling for demographic variables and survey date, older adult age was associated with perceiving larger risks of dying if getting COVID-19, but with perceiving less risk of getting COVID-19, getting quarantined, or running out of money, as well as less depression and anxiety. Findings held after additionally controlling for precrisis reports of depression diagnosis. Discussion With the exception of perceived infection-fatality risk, U.S. adults who were relatively older appeared to have a more optimistic outlook and better mental health during the early stages of the pandemic. Interventions may be neededmore »to help people of all ages maintain realistic perceptions of the risks, while also managing depression and anxiety during the COVID-19 crisis. Implications for risk communication and mental health interventions are discussed.« less
  3. Objective: Communication difficulties negatively impact relationship quality and are associated with social isolation and loneliness in later life. There is a need for accessible communication interventions offered outside specialty mental health settings. Design: Pilot randomized controlled trial. Setting: Assessments in the laboratory and intervention completed in-home. Participants: Twenty adults age 60 and older from the community and a geriatric psychiatry clinic. Intervention: A web-based communication coach that provides automated feedback on eye contact, facial expressivity, speaking volume, and negative content (Aging and Engaging Program, AEP), delivered with minimal assistance in the home (eight brief sessions over 4–6 weeks) or control (education and videos on communication). Measurements: System Usability Scale and Social Skills Performance Assessment, an observer-rated assessment of social communication elicited through standardized role-plays. Results" Ninety percent of participants completed all AEP sessions and the System Usability Scale score of 68 was above the cut-off for acceptable usability. Participants randomized to AEP demonstrated statistically and clinically significant improvement in eye contact and facial expressivity. Conclusion: The AEP is acceptable and feasible for older adults with communication difficulties to complete at home and may improve eye contact and facial expressivity, warranting a larger RCT to confirm efficacy and explore potential applicationsmore »to other populations, including individuals with autism and social anxiety.« less
  4. This paper highlights current technological limitations and offers recommendations for scientists and engineers when designing devices to support aging in place. Existing technology for older adults to support independent living is examined as well as the implications of contextual factors, namely, location, on how people live and age based on the location in which they reside. This is the first review to investigate how challenges of aging change relative to location of residence and, subsequently, how such variation may inform technological solutions. To date, few devices consider the environment in which older individuals age. Places examined include aging: at home; assisted living facilities; nursing homes; and family housing. Challenges found in common across these locations were financial strain and isolation. In addition, each setting was found to have its own unique hurdles. Understanding these barriers is essential to developing technology that enables older adults to successfully age in place.
  5. Background Participation in ambulatory cardiac rehabilitation remains low, especially among older adults. Although mobile health cardiac rehabilitation (mHealth-CR) provides a novel opportunity to deliver care, age-specific impairments may limit older adults’ uptake, and efficacy data are currently lacking. Objective This study aims to describe the design of the rehabilitation using mobile health for older adults with ischemic heart disease in the home setting (RESILIENT) trial. Methods RESILIENT is a multicenter randomized clinical trial that is enrolling patients aged ≥65 years with ischemic heart disease in a 3:1 ratio to either an intervention (mHealth-CR) or control (usual care) arm, with a target sample size of 400 participants. mHealth-CR consists of a commercially available mobile health software platform coupled with weekly exercise therapist sessions to review progress and set new activity goals. The primary outcome is a change in functional mobility (6-minute walk distance), which is measured at baseline and 3 months. Secondary outcomes are health status, goal attainment, hospital readmission, and mortality. Among intervention participants, engagement with the mHealth-CR platform will be analyzed to understand the characteristics that determine different patterns of use (eg, persistent high engagement and declining engagement). Results As of December 2021, the RESILIENT trial had enrolled 116more »participants. Enrollment is projected to continue until October 2023. The trial results are expected to be reported in 2024. Conclusions The RESILIENT trial will generate important evidence about the efficacy of mHealth-CR among older adults in multiple domains and characteristics that determine the sustained use of mHealth-CR. These findings will help design future precision medicine approaches to mobile health implementation in older adults. This knowledge is especially important in light of the COVID-19 pandemic that has shifted much of health care to a remote, internet-based setting. Trial Registration ClinicalTrials.gov NCT03978130; https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03978130 International Registered Report Identifier (IRRID) DERR1-10.2196/32163« less