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Exploring the role of human-following robots in supporting the mobility and wellbeing of older people

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Shuo LiORCiD, Kirsty Milligan, Professor Phil BlytheORCiD, Dr Yanghanzi ZhangORCiD, Simon Edwards, Professor Nic Palmarini, Dr Lynne Corner, Dr Yanjie Ji, Fan Zhang, Dr Anil Namdeo



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


With the ever-pressing challenges of societal ageing, robotic technologies for older people are increasingly portrayed as a solution for better independent living for longer. However, the application of human-following robots for elderly citizens has not yet been considered, and any prospective benefts ofered by the technology for active ageing have previously been overlooked. This qualitative research aimed to explore older people’s needs and requirements towards the human-following robot through the refexive thematic analysis of semi-structured interview data from 17 independent older adults, supported by a video-based demonstration of the robot. The results indicate that older people believed that human-following robot has the potential to provide social benefts to an independent older adult by encouraging walking trips and prompting social interaction with others in the community. Practical limitations and cost of the robot are barriers to adoption at present. The fndings indicate that there is potential for human-following robots to support active ageing, through increasing opportunities for the social participation of an older adult, but further development of the robot is needed for this potential to be realised.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Li S, Milligan K, Blythe P, Zhang Y, Edwards S, Palmarini N, Corner L, Ji Y, Zhang F, Namdeo A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Scientific Reports

Year: 2023

Volume: 13

Online publication date: 20/04/2023

Acceptance date: 19/04/2023

Date deposited: 12/07/2023

ISSN (electronic): 2045-2322

Publisher: Nature Publishing Group


DOI: 10.1038/s41598-023-33837-1


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Funder referenceFunder name
UK National Innovation Centre for Ageing (NICA)