Can a Service Robot Which Supports Independent Living of Older People Disobey a Command? The Views of Older People, Informal Carers and Professional Caregivers on the Acceptability of Robots

Sandra Bedaf, Heather Draper, Gert Jan Gelderblom, Tom Sorell, Luc de Witte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Sustaining independent living for elderly people in their own homes is desirable for various reasons. As older people become frail or disabled, a ‘gap’ appears between the abilities they still have and the abilities that are required for independent living. To a certain extent robots may close this gap by providing functionality lost through frailty or disability. A scenario was created involving a re-enablement coach robot. This scenario was discussed with older people, informal carers, and care professionals in focus groups in the Netherlands, United Kingdom and France. The results provided insights into the acceptability of robots and showed that older people were open to the idea of having a robot supporting them in their daily life. Participants were also willing to have a robot perform higher level coordinating tasks while playing the role of the re-enablement coach. However, participants wanted the robot to operate at the same level of intelligence as a human carer. This implies that more attention needs to be given to the development of the social skills and behaviour of such robots. Additionally, participants acknowledged that such a robot would create tension between respecting the autonomy of the user (i.e. robot obeys all commands given by the user) and the promotion of independence in the long term (i.e. robot is programmed to maintain the abilities the user still has). Our results indicate that people preferred to resolve this tension in favour of autonomy. This choice, however, may decrease the user’s abilities in the longer term and thereby undermine users’ ability to live independently.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-420
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Social Robotics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Acceptability
  • Aging in place
  • Assistive robotics
  • Elderly
  • Service robots

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