Domestic Robots for Older Adults: Attitudes, Preferences, and Potential


The population of older adults in America is expected to reach an unprecedented level in the near future. Some of them have difficulties with performing daily tasks and caregivers may not be able to match pace with the increasing need for assistance. Robots, especially mobile manipulators, have the potential for assisting older adults with daily tasks enabling them to live independently in their homes. However, little is known about their views of robot assistance in the home. Twenty-one independently living older Americans (65–93 years old) were asked about their preferences for and attitudes toward robot assistance via a structured group interview and questionnaires. In the group interview, they generated a diverse set of 121 tasks they would want a robot to assist them with in their homes. These data, along with their questionnaire responses, suggest that the older adults were generally open to robot assistance but were discriminating in their acceptance of assistance for different tasks. They preferred robot assistance over human assistance for tasks related to chores, manipulating objects, and information management. In contrast, they preferred human assistance to robot assistance for tasks related to personal care and leisure activities. Our study provides insights into older adults’ attitudes and preferences for robot assistance with everyday living tasks in the home which may inform the design of robots that will be more likely accepted by older adults.

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  1. 1.

    All stimulus materials described herein are available in full from the authors.

  2. 2.

    Online Resource 1: The narrated video that introduced Willow Garage’s Personal Robot 2 (PR2) to the participants. The video consisted of a collage of video clips locally developed and adapted, with permission, from the Willow Garage video blog ( It showed the robot’s physical features, capabilities, as well as it performing a range tasks. The goal of the video was to provide a best-case scenario of the PR2’s capabilities and we emphasized to participants that the robot was not limited to what was shown in the video.

  3. 3.

    Online Resource 2 (see electronic supplementary material): The 25 action words given to older adults during the group interview to facilitate discussion of what tasks they would want robot assistance with in their homes.

  4. 4.

    The use of one strategy (selection, optimization, compensation) does not preclude the use of another strategy in the SOC Model.



Self-Maintenance Activities of Daily Living


Instrumental Activities of Daily Living


Enhanced Activities of Daily Living


Personal Robot 2




Standard Deviation


Domestic Robot Ecology


t-test value


degrees of statistical freedom


probability of type 1 error in a statistical test


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This research was supported in part by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (National Institute on Aging) Grant P01 AG17211 under the auspices of the Center for Research and Education on Aging and Technology Enhancement (CREATE; Also, we gratefully acknowledge support provided for this work by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program, and NSF grants CBET-0932592, CNS-0958545, and ITS-1150157. This multidisciplinary effort between the Human Factors and Aging Laboratory ( and the Healthcare Robotics Laboratory ( was inspired by collaboration with Willow Garage who selected the Georgia Institute of Technology as a beta PR2 site for research ( Video clips used in the PR2 video were adapted with permission from Willow Garage’s video library ( Special thanks to Nachiketas Iyyengar for video development and Jennifer Megan Springman for assistance in data collection and creating experimental materials. Portions of data from this research study have been presented previously [40, 42].

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Correspondence to Cory-Ann Smarr.

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Smarr, CA., Mitzner, T.L., Beer, J.M. et al. Domestic Robots for Older Adults: Attitudes, Preferences, and Potential. Int J of Soc Robotics 6, 229–247 (2014).

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  • Older adults
  • Assistive robotics
  • Activities of daily living
  • Robot acceptance