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IATSL develops assistive technology that is adaptive, flexible, and intelligent, enabling users to participate fully in their daily lives. Learn more about our research

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Personal Robots to Support Aging-in-Place

Keywords: Intelligent robot, aging-in-place, activities of daily living (ADL), enabling occupations, assistive technology.

Overview of Research

As people age, they generally wish to remain living in their own homes. However, declining health and chronic conditions that may arise with aging often require support; support which is usually provided by a caregiver, such as a family member or a drop-in professional health care worker. In answer to this need, smart home systems are being developed to assist older adults to age-in-place by providing different services, such as automated prompting for daily activities, responses to emergency situations, and a means of communication with family and friends. Currently, these technologies use advanced sensing and artificial intelligence to autonomously make the required decisions, but are static and embedded into the environment (e.g. mounted to a wall or ceiling). While the fixed and unobtrusive nature of these technologies is appropriate for some situations, it has limitations, such as:

  • Inability to sufficiently engage a person during a task;
  • Inability to assist with physical tasks;
  • Inability to conduct in-depth “hands-on” assessments; and
  • Lack of personal interactions.

Intelligent mobile robots have the potential to play a vital role in the next stage of smart home technologies. This pilot project aims to design a personal assistive robot that can socially interact with older adults with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias in their daily lives and offer assistance (e.g. step by step prompting for daily activities as with COACH) whenever required. The research will include building working prototypes (hardware and software) and evaluating them with older adults with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. It is hoped that a socially interactive mobile robot can encourage independent completion of activities by older adults with Alzheimer’s disease, thereby supporting their ability to age-in-place and reducing the dependence on caregivers.

Video of tea making with the personal robot.


The personal robot in HomeLab

Figure 1. The personal smart home robot navigating around HomeLab (enlarge image)

Funding Sources

CIHR Catalyst Grant: Pilot Projects in Aging


  1. Begum, M., Wang, R.H., Huq, R. and Mihailidis, A. (2013, submitted). Performance of daily activities by older adults with dementia: The role of an assistive robot. 13th International Conference on Rehabilitation Robotics, June 24-26, Seattle, USA.
  2. Wang, R.H., Viswanathan, P., Czarnuch, S., Boger, J., Nejat, G., and Mihailidis, A. (2013). Developing advanced assistive technologies for older adults with dementia: Lessons learned. RESNA 2013, June 22-24, Bellevue, USA.
  3. Wang, R.H. and Mihailidis, A. (2012, Abstract). Robotics for older adults: Rehabilitation applications for body functions and structures, and activities and participation. Canadian Association on Gerontology (CAG) 41st Annual Scientific and Educational Meeting, October 18-20, Vancouver, Canada.

Research Team

Alex Mihailidis (University of Toronto)
Goldie Nejat (University of Toronto)
Jennifer Boger (University of Toronto)
Rajibul Huq (University of Toronto)
Rosalie Wang (Toronto Rehabilitation Institute)
Frank Rudzicz (University of Toronto)
Momotaz Begum (Toronto Rehabilitation Institute)
Geoffrey Louie (University of Toronto)
Derek McColl (University of Toronto
Sharon Cohen (Toronto Memory Program)
Vara Parameswaran (Toronto Memory Program)