The role of Italy’s National Institute of Health and Science on Ageing (IRCCS INRCA) is to test the Guardian robot in the home setting of older people. Senior researcher and project manager Roberta Bevilacqua: ‘The aim of the robot is to stimulate older people to remain active and involved in society.’
Bevilacqua: ‘IRCCS INRCA is a public Institute that is engaged in specialised assistance and research on the topic of health and ageing. One of our activities is the integration of technology into innovative assistive models. We are really convinced that the role of technology, in the form of the Guardian solution, provides a positive impact for the health of older people. In Italy, older people often are admitted with acute health issues. This could be prevented by providing earlier support in the home situation, so that people can self-manage their health.’About
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Stimulate health literacy
Bevilacqua: ‘Right now we are testing the Guardian robot in our first trial with five panels that include an older person, an informal and formal carer. We recruited the people and installed the technology in their homes. We run the protocols of questionnaires and offer daily or weekly assistance. We take care of the needs of the end users and we also provide education and training for using the technology. Our secondary aim is to add value with our project in developing their digital skills and stimulate health literacy.’
Positive about talking to the robot
Bevilacqua: ‘Our first impression is really positive. All the participants want to stay involved in the experiment. A bigger trial will be the next step in which we involve more end users. One of the primary findings is that some end users find it very supportive to talk to the robot. They get enthusiastic and therefore we have to manage their expectations, because we are working with a prototype. But the information is very helpful for personalising and further development of the application. Another factor we must take into account is to be careful not to create dependency on the robot, because the aim is to stimulate older people to remain active and involved in society.’
Differences between digital skills
Bevilacqua: ‘In IRCCS INRCA, we strongly believe in the added value of the European collaboration. In Italy we have a higher number of ageing people than in other countries. The topic of active and healthy ageing needs a multidisciplinary vision, taking multiple perspectives into account. For instance, in Italy there’s a division between health and welfare services. So it’s interesting to learn how this is organised in other countries.’ There are also differences between countries. ‘In comparison to the Netherlands, older people in Italy have lower digital skills and therefore the challenge is to understand how the system can adapt to the different needs, competences, and preferences.’
Bevilacqua: ‘The robot can especially support people who feel lonely, or are restricted in mobility, or live in distant rural areas. Guardian can provide them with the technology to interact with their family members.’ For INRCCS INRCA there also is a lot of value in the participation itself: ‘The Guardian project gives us the opportunity to gain experience in cooperating with older people, their caregivers and the health professionals that are specialised in geriatric care.’
Guardian is one of the European AAL projects that aim to enable older people to live independently at home for longer with a pleasant and active lifestyle. AAL stands for Active and Assisted Living and contributes to the challenges and issues of our time that also play a role in other European countries, such as staff shortages and an aging population.