My mechanical friend – help in fighting loneliness?

A new Age UK survey has found that over 1 million elderly people in the UK feel lonely. The research found that 12% of older people actually feel cut off from society. 41% say their TV or pet is their main form of companionship. There can be no doubt that given the changes in society, with more people living alone, this problem will only likely get worse.

Last year I blogged on an EU funded project called MOBISERV which looked to develop robot home companions. Another similar EU funded project is the GiraffPlus system, the aim of which is to help elderly people remain at home, and live safer and independent lives. The system is made up sensors and a robot, which can detect activities such as cooking, sleeping and monitors the health of the elderly person.

One of those participating in the project and trialling the robotic home companion is 94 year old Italian, Lea mina Ralli. She has been using the GiraffPlus system for 5 months, and calls her robot, Mr Robin.

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The GiraffPlus project plans to have the system in 15 homes by the end of then year, and then for it to go into commercial production next year.

Whilst there are clearly many positives to such systems, it has to be wondered whether it could also in some ways possibly exacerbate loneliness?

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