Given the rapidly aging nature of our global population, policy makers around the world are now emphatically promoting active aging. To address the psychosocial needs of older persons and support active aging, researchers are exploring the use of assistive technologies, specifically social robots as companions. However, there is limited evidence on the efficacy of social robots in promoting active aging for older people in the Hong Kong and Singapore contexts.
This study presents the protocol of a study that investigates the acceptance and quality of interaction between a Japanese social robot, LOVOT, and single older adults in Hong Kong and Singapore.
We used a baseline assessment to measure the primary outcome, participants’ acceptance of technology, and a sense of loneliness, namely, the participants’ differences in responses to LOVOT before and following their interaction with the social robot in this multimethod study design. The baseline assessment consisted of the Qualtrics survey, which measures senior technology acceptance, loneliness, older people’s quality of life, subjective happiness, cultural values, willingness to pay, and demographic characteristics, along with the LOVOT’s sociability and system usability. In the study, participants interacted with LOVOT in 3 sessions before being surveyed to measure the older people’s acceptance and attitudes toward LOVOT. A pre–social robot intervention also occurred in the first session. The study was conducted in both Hong Kong and Singapore. A total of 15 single older adults (ie, individuals who live alone) from Hong Kong and another 15 from Singapore were recruited. Participants were 60-75 years of age, lived by themselves, and had no known cognitive or mental issues.
The study began recruiting in March 2022, and recruitment was completed at the end of October 2022. Data collection and data set construction were completed at the end of January 2023. Analysis of the data is currently being conducted, and we plan to publish the results by mid-2023.
At an individual level, the study will clarify if LOVOT influences single older adults’ psychosocial well-being by reducing their loneliness. At a community level, the study’s findings will illustrate whether LOVOT can provide increased social connectedness while decreasing individual loneliness. Last, this study’s conclusions can inform policy makers to provide social robots to older people to improve their quality of life. Findings can also inform gerontechnology developers on which aspects and cultural considerations to take into account for future inventions.