This article was originally published here
Work. 2021 Jan 11. doi: 10.3233/WOR-205096. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: Prior to the COVID-19 global health emergency, reducing direct contacts between therapists and patients is an important issue, and could be achieved by using robots to perform certain caring activities.
OBJECTIVE: This study compares therapeutic factors of singing group activities directed by social robots and by occupational therapists at elderly care centers during this COVID-19 outbreak.
METHODS: This project has a quasi-experimental research design, based on a pilot study of 14 subjects aged above 65 years. They received eight sessions of singing group therapy given by a social robot or an occupational therapist. Completed copies of a therapeutic-factor questionnaire were then collected.
RESULTS: At the 4th week, the scores for 8 therapeutic factors were higher in sessions with the occupational therapist than the robot-directed sessions, reaching a statistically significant level; at the 8th week, the scores for 3 therapeutic factors, including imparting of information, were higher in sessions with the occupational therapist than in sessions with the robot. The top scoring therapeutic factor in the robot sessions was group cohesiveness.
CONCLUSIONS: Social robots may be good companion tools for elderly care during this COVID-19 outbreak, but group therapy sessions supervised by real-person therapists still have higher therapeutic factor scores than those conducted by robots. The number of subjects needs to be increased to enhance the validity of future study results.