Social robotics in dementia care to promote social health: ethical issues and implementation strategies

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Ireland Ireland National University of Ireland Galway

Early Stage Researcher (ESR12)

ESR12: photo of Wei Qi Koh

Wei Qi Koh

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Prof. Dympna Casey

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Dr. Heike Felzmann

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Wei Qi Koh has had over 5 years of clinical experience as an occupational therapist working with older adults, including persons with dementia in Singapore. She has a strong interest in research to advocate for patient-centred practice and meaningful engagement among older adults. Wei Qi Koh has received a research grant from the Singapore Association of Occupational Therapists in 2018 to work on her research project.

As part of DISTINCT, she will be carrying out a research to investigate the use of technology (social robots) to promote social health among older adults with dementia and undertake her PhD in the National University of Ireland Galway.

Start date October 2019
Duration 36 months


To review existing social robotic technology use in dementia care to identify the barriers and facilitators to the implementation of social robotics in practice. To explore attitudes toward social robotic use by people with dementia aimed to promote participation in social and meaningful activities and to identify strategies to influence and change attitudes. To review existing ethical issues and concerns regarding the use of social robotics in dementia care from the perspective of relevant stakeholders, such as people with dementia, carers, robot researchers and designers, health care practitioners, with attention to the involvement of users and carers with actual robot use experience from previous robotics projects. Systematic reviews and mixed methods methodology involving qualitative interviews and a Delphi survey will be utilised.

Expected Results

Best practice guidelines for the successful introduction and implementation of social robotics in dementia care plus an up to date report on the state of the art in social robotic technology use in dementia care. A detailed account will describe the perceived barriers and facilitators to the design process and implementation of social robotics in dementia care settings across countries and in particular what needs to be in place to achieve positive stakeholder attitudes towards social robotics to enhance implementation success. Ethical framework and best practice guidelines to facilitate ethical design and implementation of social robotics in dementia care, based on principles of value sensitive design based on engagement with participants (health professionals, technical and design professionals, carers and users) in previous and ongoing social robotics projects in Ireland, UK and the Netherlands, as well as consultation with robot ethics and human robot interaction (HRI) experts. This will generate new knowledge regarding real world experiences of ethical issues in the implementation of care robotics for persons with dementia to inform the design and implementation process and a report on ethical concerns in practice and framework to mitigate ethical concerns regarding social robotics in dementia care to ensure the needs of carers and people with dementia are protected.

Planned secondment(s)

Two for 3 months each. The first in year one with VUB to fine-tune the ethical framework developed through interaction with local experts in dementia care and the interdisciplinary group exploring different theoretical dimensions of the experiences of illness. The second in year 3 at VUMC to explore ethical issues surrounding the use of assistive technology and social robotics and technology in dementia care.