Writtle University College and ARU have merged. Writtle’s full range of college, degree, postgraduate and short courses will still be delivered on the Writtle campus. See our guide to finding Writtle information on this site.

Could robots help elderly people live longer?

Published: 7 September 2021 at 10:00

British Science Festival logo

Talk will explore whether tech companions can alleviate loneliness

Could having robots for company really help to reduce the impact of loneliness and isolation among older people? That is what experts in social care will explore during a free talk at the British Science Festival in Chelmsford.
Academics at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) and Newcastle University will demonstrate the capabilities of robots and other developments in the field of robotics and AI for older people, and discuss their potential in the world of social care during a unique talk at the British Science Festival at 4pm on 7 September. The talk will take place at ARU’s Chelmsford campus. 
Developed by Piaggio Fast Forward, the smart “gita” cargo robots that can carry up to 23kg, and communicate via touch, light and sound are being live tested with older adults in urban areas by the UK’s National Innovation Centre for Ageing (NICA), based at Newcastle University.
It is hoped that these robots can aid independence, for example by carrying shopping and giving older people confidence to go out into their communities by acting as a social connector. It could also help people to maintain a healthier lifestyle suggesting to go for longer and more frequent walks.
Other robots that have been developed include SARA, a humanoid robot that interacts socially with people, with the aim of being an adjunct for care provision, for example for older adults.

Dr Pamela Knight-Davidson has been working on projects with partners in four EU countries and will showcase some of this work at the talk. 
Dr Knight-Davidson, Research Fellow at ARU, said:

“There are currently around 110,000 vacancies in the social care sector, and with an ageing population in the UK and around the western world, there is hope that technology could help solve some of the problems we are facing as a society.
“However, the use of such tech for the care of older people raises legitimate moral and ethical questions. It may sound outlandish and even frightening to envisage a robot playing a prominent role in your life, but the idea of AI and robotics in helping our elderly live more independent, longer lives is a rapidly growing idea. 
“The technology is astounding, and we are delighted to be able to showcase some examples of this at the British Science Festival in Chelmsford.”

Dr Knight-Davidson will be joined by Dr Nic Palmarini of NICA and Rebecca Jarvis, formerly commissioner for adult social care at Essex County Council.