Robots are gradually solidifying their place in the world of older adult care. They are taking on roles of companions, caretakers, and, now, teachers. McKnight’s Senior Living reported on a novel study coming out of Vanderbilt University: two professors from the diverse fields of mechanical engineering and nursing developed a robot-led, two-player video game designed to aid in slowing the progression of dementia, while increasing social interaction among senior living residents.
The first component of this study is the video game: It is designed to play in pairs, where the players control their in-game avatars by physically moving their upper bodies in real life while keeping their brains alert as they focus throughout the game. The object of the game is for each player to move their books into the correct bin. Residents enjoyed the new game and did not find it difficult but felt it did make them more conscious of their body movements. Besides physical benefits, the video game promotes social interaction, because residents play in pairs and are rewarded with extra points by helping one another. Researchers noted that after playing the game, residents began returning to the game room more often and increasing the length of time they played the game.
The second component of the study is the robot. Its role is to guide the older adults through the video game and demonstrate the body movements needed to complete the task. The robot even keeps players engaged by instructing residents by name. The robot component is meant to support a human staff member in teaching the class, which may be an innovative idea as employee shortages within the aging workforce continue to be a concern.
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Bowers LA. Video game may help slow dementia progression, address workforce issues. McKnight’s Senior Living. https://www.mcknightsseniorliving.com/home/news/video-game-may-help-slow-dementia-progression-address-workforce-issues/. Accessed April 5, 219.