The role of a socially assistive robot in enabling older adults with mild cognitive impairment to cope with the measures of the COVID-19 lockdown: A qualitative study

Scand J Occup Ther. 2021 Dec 6:1-11. doi: 10.1080/11038128.2021.2009560. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: During the COVID-19 pandemic, mandatory containment measures led to lockdowns and severely diminished social interaction, with older adults being one vulnerable group. Socially assistive robots (SARs) could prove to be an effective intervention.

OBJECTIVES: To explore the experiences of older adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) with a SAR during the first lockdown in Belgium.

METHODS: Inductive thematic analysis was used. After a two-week interaction period with robot James®, semi-structured interviews were conducted.

RESULTS: Four people were interviewed (median: 86 years; range: 70-90 years; 2 men, 2 women). Four themes were identified. The first theme described the robot as a companion, alleviating feelings of loneliness and social isolation. The second theme explored the robot in light of meaningful activity. The third theme detailed the technical aspects of the robot and the fourth theme described notable barriers and areas of improvement.

CONCLUSION: The study demonstrated the potential of SARs during the first lockdown period in Belgium. The robot proved to be promising in terms of alleviating feelings of loneliness and social isolation. It was found to be both motivating and facilitating in terms of meaningful activity.

SIGNIFICANCE: The study provided valuable insights for the care of lonely and occupationally deprived older adults.

PMID:34871144 | DOI:10.1080/11038128.2021.2009560

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