TRENDING NOW: “Gossip Robots” Being Programmed to Ease Loneliness in Assisted Living Residents

Robots are making their way into health care, used as a preventative measure to loneliness and a potential solution to staff shortages. McKnight’s Senior Living reports on a robot that is being eyed to address overwhelmed frontline senior living workers in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The four-foot-tall robot, named Pepper, is manufactured by SoftBank Robotics in Tokyo and the University of Minnesota is programming it to become a social robot, or “gossip bot.” The goal is to have these robots interact with and monitor the residents in assisted living, through engaging in eye contact and words of encouragement.

Pepper is being proposed to serve as a personal caregiver for people with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia. It will be equipped with cameras and sensors that can detect facial expressions, tone of voice, and physical movement. When the care recipient wears wireless sensors, Pepper can also monitor their pulse, body temperature, balance, sleep habits, monitor falls, and any balance issues–and is equipped to alert designated family members, or doctors about any sudden changes. Over time, the robot can even learn an individual’s routine and remind a resident to take medications or complete their exercises.

The work that has gone into Pepper has been interdisciplinary; focus groups with patients, caregivers, and providers are involved, as well as computer scientists, dietitians, mechanical engineers, and even an epidemiologist. The eventual goal for Pepper is to provide assistance not only to older adults, but also children and people on the autistic spectrum.


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Bonvissuto K. ‘Gossip bots’ one day may serve as personal caregiver assistants to older adults with dementia. McKnight’s Senior Living. Accessed January 11, 2021.


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