Socially assistive robots in elderly care: a systematic review into effects and effectiveness

J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2012 Feb;13(2):114-120.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2010.10.002. Epub 2010 Dec 15.


The ongoing development of robotics on the one hand and, on the other hand, the foreseen relative growth in number of elderly individuals suffering from dementia, raises the question of which contribution robotics could have to rationalize and maintain, or even improve the quality of care. The objective of this review was to assess the published effects and effectiveness of robot interventions aiming at social assistance in elderly care. We searched, using Medical Subject Headings terms and free words, in the CINAHL, MEDLINE, Cochrane, BIOMED, PUBMED, PsycINFO, and EMBASE databases. Also the IEEE Digital Library was searched. No limitations were applied for the date of publication. Only articles written in English were taken into account. Collected publications went through a selection process. In the first step, publications were collected from major databases using a search query. In the second step, 3 reviewers independently selected publications on their title, using predefined selection criteria. In the third step, publications were judged based on their abstracts by the same reviewers, using the same selection criteria. In the fourth step, one reviewer made the final selection of publications based on complete content. Finally, 41 publications were included in the review, describing 17 studies involving 4 robot systems. Most studies reported positive effects of companion-type robots on (socio)psychological (eg, mood, loneliness, and social connections and communication) and physiological (eg, stress reduction) parameters. The methodological quality of the studies was, mostly, low. Although positive effects were reported, the scientific value of the evidence was limited. The positive results described, however, prompt further effectiveness research in this field.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnosis
  • Alzheimer Disease / therapy
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / therapy
  • Dementia / diagnosis
  • Dementia / therapy
  • Female
  • Friends
  • Geriatric Assessment*
  • Health Services for the Aged*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Quality of Health Care*
  • Robotics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Treatment Outcome