Service robots in elderly care at home: Users' needs and perceptions as a basis for concept development

Lucia Pigini, David Facal, Lorenzo Blasi, Renzo Andrich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Service robots may offer an innovative assistive solution to improve the quality of life of frail elderly people, by assisting them in specific situations identified as relevant to maintain independence. Objective: This paper describes the results of a qualitative and quantitative research based on a user-centered methodology carried out within the EU-funded project Multi-Role Shadow Robotic System for Independent Living (SRS), aiming to generate user requirements and realistic usage scenarios maximizing the alignment with users' needs, perceptions, feelings and rights. Methods: A qualitative and quantitative research-based on focus groups (59 participants) and questionnaires (129 respondents)-was carried out in three countries: Italy, Spain and Germany. The survey involved prospective end-users (elderly people and family members who care for them), caregivers, and geriatric experts. Results: Results show that despite elderly people encounter difficulties in many activities of daily life, a semi-autonomous remotely-controlled and self-learning service robot has been judged an interesting solution only in some circumstances. Monitoring and managing emergency situations, helping with reaching, fetching and carrying objects that are too heavy or positioned in unreachable places: these are tasks for which robotic support has been widely accepted, while tasks involving direct physical contact between the person and the robot are not appreciated instead. Relatives of the elderly could act as remote operators; however, family psychological burden and time restrictions should be considered too. Conclusions: A tele-operated robotic system may be of help for frail elderly people. In certain cases this solution may be effective only in conjunction with a 24-hour professional Service Centre able to manage tele-operation when relatives are not available. This survey adds further tokens of knowledge to previous literature studies on this subject; it compares the potential users' and the professionals' views; it helps identifying potentially successful applications of tele-operated robots in the care of elderly people living at home. The results obtained by the present study, generated specific requirements and the first versions of concrete usage scenarios, enabling designers and technologists to start with a first development phase of the SRS concept.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-311
Number of pages9
JournalTechnology and Disability
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • caregivers
  • elderly people
  • Service robots
  • tele-operation
  • user centered design
  • user requirements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Health Informatics


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