Background: In recent years, robots have been considered a new tech industry that can be used to solve the shortage in human resources in the field of health care. Also, animal-assisted therapy has been used to provide assistance, companionship, and interaction among the elderly and has been shown to have a positive impact on their emotional and psychological well-being. Both pets and robots can provide dynamic communication and positive interaction patterns. However, preferences for middle-aged and older adults in this regard are not clear. Objective: This study explored the degree of acceptance of robots and pets as partners in later life and to determine the needs and preferences of elderly individuals related to companion robots. Methods: A total of 273 middle-aged and older adults aged ≥45 years and living in the community were invited to answer a structured questionnaire after watching a companion robot video. Sociodemographic data, physical health status and activities, experience with technology, eHealth literacy, and acceptance and attitude toward robots and pets were recorded and analyzed using multinomial logistic regression analysis. Results: Age, level of education, type of dwelling, occupation, retirement status, number of comorbidities, experience with pets, experience using apps, and eHealth literacy were significantly associated with acceptance of robots and pets. Middle-aged and older women preferred robots with an animal-like appearance, while men preferred robots that resembled a human adult. In terms of robot functions, participants preferred a companion robot with dancing, singing, storytelling, or news-reporting functions. Participants' marital status and whether or not they lived alone affected their preference of functions in the companion robot. Conclusions: Findings from this study inform the development of social robots with regard to their appearance and functions to address loneliness in later life in fast-aging societies.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Health Informatics