The investigation of a new care robot design approach for alleviating LGBT+ elderly loneliness

Adam Poulsen

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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In this robotics renaissance, machines are moving into typically human-delivered domains, such as aged care and education, closing the distance between the user and the machine in human-robot interactions. Given that the older population continues to grow worldwide and the intake of carers in the aged care sector decreases, robot intervention appears inevitable. However, the use of robots in aged care raises value concerns such as choice, safety, dignity, privacy and autonomy, to name a few. Moreover, value considerations affecting those within aged care are being made outside of the caregiver-care recipient relationship by roboticists and designers, putting good, person-centred care at risk. To better account for the diverse set of stakeholder values within the aged care robot ecosystem, value sensitive design and other subsequent methods have been adopted in this space. Yet, an adequate account of good care using value sensitive design is missing in aged care robot studies. The present study addresses several gaps in the care robot design literature by contributing a new value sensitive design method, values in motion design, and chiefly asks the following main research question: ‘How do we design a care robot to ensure good care?’

Using an interpretivist, social constructionist philosophy, this value sensitive design study sought to investigate stakeholders' values in a particular care robot design case study. Following that, this study aimed to theorise how value sensitive care robots could help in the case study. Finally, using the lessons learned from the case study, the present research advanced care robot design theory. Throughout this study, the case study explores the social lives and values of Australian LGBT+ elders, their experiences of loneliness, and how social robot intervention could help alleviate that loneliness. Two additional research questions were asked to develop an empirical study around the case study. Answering these additional questions provides an empirical foundation for addressing the main research question. The two additional questions are: ‘How could care robots help alleviate loneliness for LGBT+ elders?’ and ‘What values are implicated in the design of care robots for the LGBT+ elders and loneliness case study?’.

Semi-structured interviews were conducted to create knowledge about the aged care robot ecosystem and discern how good care can be applied in the case study context. Interview participants included seventeen LGBT+ elders, eight healthcare professionals and LGBT+ ageing service providers, and eight robot experts. The interviews with LGBT+ elders aimed to elicit what this community values in social interactions, including those enabled by technology. The interviews also aimed to understand what values healthcare professionals and LGBT+ ageing service providers are required to uphold in social interactions or service provision with LGBT+ elders, and what values robot experts must actualise in the design of aged care robots. At first, participants were recruited using random sampling, and purposive sampling was used thereafter. The thematic analysis of the data gathered led to the discovery of five themes. These were social values, care values, community values, technology in care, and designing for care. This study is the first to capture the values and value interpretations of LGBT+ elders concerning robots. Thus, a significant contribution is made to robot design literature as this study reveals how LGBT+ elders describe values relating to technology compared to traditional values found in the literature. Furthermore, in accounting for what good care with robots means for this particular community in this context, values in motion design provides an innovative method to realising the value sensitive design of care robots capable of good care and appreciating the intricacies of the care milieu.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Burmeister, Oliver, Principal Supervisor
  • Tien, David, Co-Supervisor
  • Ul-Haq, Anwaar, Co-Supervisor
  • Greig, Jenni, Co-Supervisor
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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