Background and Objectives: Social robots may promote the health of older adults by increasing their perceived emotional support and social interaction. This review aims to summarize the effectiveness of social robots on outcomes (psychological, physiological, quality of life, or medications) of older adults from randomized controlled trials (RCTs).
Research Design and Methods: A mixed-method systematic review of RCTs meeting the study inclusion criteria was undertaken. Eight databases were electronically searched up to September 2017. Participants' characteristics, intervention features, and outcome data were retrieved. The mean difference and standardized mean difference with 95% confidence intervals (CI) were synthesized to pool the effect size.
Results: A total of 13 articles from 11 RCTs were identified from 2,204 articles, of which 9 studies were included in the meta-analysis. Risk of bias was relatively high in allocation concealment and blinding. Social robots appeared to have positive impacts on agitation, anxiety, and quality of life for older adults but no statistical significance was found in the meta-analysis. However, results from a narrative review indicated that social robot interactions could improve engagement, interaction, and stress indicators, as well as reduce loneliness and the use of medications for older adults.
Discussion and Implications: Social robots appear to have the potential to improve the well-being of older adults, but conclusions are limited due to the lack of high-quality studies. More RCTs are recommended with larger sample sizes and rigorous study designs.