Advinia Health Care is to trial robots at its care homes from September through a £2.5m EU-funded partnership with the University of Bedfordshire.
The robots, which are designed to provide social interaction, have the ability to adapt their conversation to residents’ interests, the Daily Express reported.
Dr Chris Papadopoulos, principal lecturer in public health at the university, said: “These robots are able to adapt, learn and tailor their conversations according to what they find out about an individual just as two people might do in a normal conversation.
“The software is in this way ground-breaking. We want to explore to what extent they might prevent loneliness and isolation, improve mental health and reduce family caregiver stress.”
The 4ft tall robot, called Pepper, is designed by Softbank Robotics in Japan.
Dr Sanjeev’s Kanoria, Chairman of Advinia Health Care and research partner in the study, said: “There is a pressing requirement for additional support in the social care of the elderly. Robots will not replace care workers but such innovation could streamline processes such as medication delivery, setting reminders and providing access to technology and entertainment.
“This technology will not only improve care delivery, but also promote independent living and quality of life. Particularly for dementia patients, agitation can be reduced by offering culturally-appropriate care support.
“The robots do not have limbs, so they cannot carry out essential care tasks but they have artificial intelligence which allows them to learn about the patients and residents and communicate this learning to the care workers enabling them to do their task better.”
The move has been with met alarm by some leaders of the care community, however, with Judy Downey, chair of the Relatives and Residents Association, warning of “treating people like commodities”.
“The key to looking after someone is having a relationship in which you might notice if someone is upset after a phone call or if they look unwell,” Judy added.
“What matters is the smile, the human touch.”