Robots may play role in reducing loneliness for people with dementia

MARIO  resident  NUIGThat’s according to the findings of the MARIO project which was coordinated by the School of Nursing and Midwifery in the National University of Ireland, Galway, led by Professor Dympna Casey. The aim of the project was to address the challenging problems of loneliness and isolation experienced by older people with dementia.

Overall, attitudes towards the MARIO robot were positive. People said they enjoyed spending time with MARIO, saw him as a companion, a source of entertainment and a source of interaction.

People with dementia were able to use the MARIO robot and its applications to access the newspapers, listen to their favourite songs, provide reminders of upcoming events, store family photos and connect with their friends and families.  

Globally, around 50 million people are living with dementia, with this number set to increase as the number of people living into old age rises. Loneliness and social isolation are major issues facing older people with dementia. Although human companionship is the best way of reducing social isolation, the resources to provide this service is often not available. MARIO addresses the difficult challenges of loneliness, isolation and dementia in older persons through innovative and multi-faceted interventions delivered by companion robots.

The MARIO project was coordinated by the School of Nursing and Midwifery in the National University of Ireland, Galway. A consortium of experts from the health care sector, robotics industry and dementia groups was created. This led to the three year MARIO project, which received €4 million in funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 - the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (2014–2020). The project involved five EU countries and a team of up to 40 people, and was completed in January 2018.  You can read the full case study here.