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Dublin: 13 °C Sunday 21 December, 2014

This charming robot helps older people stay in their own homes

Robin allows elderly people to connect with friends, family and medical professionals and can also watch for falls and monitor blood pressure.

Image: European Commission

MEET ROBIN, A very helpful robot.

He lives with 94-year-old Italian woman Lea Mina Ralli – also known as Grandma Lea – who could not live on her own anymore but wanted to stay in her own home. An EU-funded team has developed the GiraffPlus system; a robot which connects older people to their family, friends and healthcare professionals.

Wearable devices and sensors throughout the home also keep an eye on the person’s health and activities.

The system is expected to be in commercial production by the end of 2015 and the EU market for robots and devices assisting our older people is estimated to reach €13 billion by 2016.

“People ask why I don’t just live with my daughter, but she has grandchildren of her own and many new responsibilities. With this valuable assistant that I call ‘Mr Robin’ I’m more relaxed about the years ahead, and so are my children and grandchildren,” Gradma Lea explained.

She has been using the system for five months and writes about ‘Mr Robin’ in her blog frequently.


€3 million of EU funding has been invested in GiraffPlus to test how robotics and other devices could help older people live safer, more independent lives. Robin’s sensors are designed to detect activities like cooking, sleeping or watching television and monitor health – blood pressure or sugar levels for example.

They allow the person’s carers to monitor their wellbeing remotely and to check for falls. The robot moves around the home on wheels and allows family, friends and carers to see and speak to the person.

Project co-ordinator Amy Loutfi said the robot will be in fifteen homes by the end of the year.

“So far we have had six homes in Europe – two homes each in Spain, Sweden and Italy – that have lived with the GiraffPlus system,” she said. “We currently are in the middle of the evaluations, but we see that various aspects of the system are appreciated differently by the different users. This goes to show that a one-size fits all approach to technology at home is not necessarily the best, and technology should be both adaptable and tailored to user’s needs”.

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