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Review: Seven Matters of Concern of Social Robots and Older People

Abstract

This article maps the range of currently held scientific positions on matters of concern involving social robots and older people. 345 publications from peer-reviewed journals and conferences were narrowed down to 31 key publications that were studied in detail and categorised into seven matters of concern: (1) role of robots in older people’s lives, (2) factors affecting older people’s acceptance of robots, (3) lack of mutual inspiration in the development of robots for older people, (4) robot aesthetics, (5) ethical implications of using robots in caring for older people, (6) robotic research methodology, and (7) technical determinism versus social construction of social robots. The findings indicate that older people are implicated but not present in the development of robots and that their matters of concern are not identified in the design process. Instead, they are ascribed general needs of social robots due to societal changes such as ageing demographics and demands from the healthcare industry. The conceptualisation of older people seems to be plagued with stereotypical views such as that they are lonely, frail and in need of robotic assistance. Our conclusions are that the perceptions of older people need to be re-examined and perhaps redefined in order to fairly represent who they are, and that more research on older people as social robotic users is needed.

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Notes

  1. NB. Dautenhahn [31] uses the word “caretaker” while Pulman [32] and Walters et al. [33] use the word “caregiver” for the same role.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Professors Henrik Schärfe, Peter Ullmark and Bo Westerlund who individually, through fruitful discussions with the first author, inspired her to write this paper (but who cannot be held accountable for any of the content). We also would like to thank Dr Elisabeth Dalholm Hornyánszky, Dr Per-Olof Hedvall, the three anonymous reviewers for their valuable and insightful comments on an earlier version of the paper, and Eileen Deaner for proofreading. This research was partially funded by the European Commission under FP7-ICT-288146, HOBBIT and FP7-ICT-288173, GiraffPlus.

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Correspondence to Susanne Frennert.

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Frennert, S., Östlund, B. Review: Seven Matters of Concern of Social Robots and Older People. Int J of Soc Robotics 6, 299–310 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12369-013-0225-8

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Keywords

  • Social robots
  • Older people
  • Stereotypes
  • Actor Network Theory
  • Science and Technology Studies