Reducing loneliness in stationary geriatric care with robots and virtual encounters—a contribution to the covid-19 pandemic

Andreas Follmann*, Franziska Schollemann, Andrea Arnolds, Pauline Weismann, Thea Laurentius, Rolf Rossaint, Michael Czaplik

*Corresponding author for this work
26 Citations (Scopus)


The bans on visiting nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, while intended to protect residents, also have the risk of increasing the loneliness and social isolation that already existed among the older generations before the pandemic. To combat loneliness and social isolation in nursing homes, this trial presents a study during which social networks of nursing home residents and elderly hospital patients were maintained through virtual encounters and robots, respectively. The observational trial included volunteers who were either residents of nursing homes or patients in a geriatric hospital. Each volunteer was asked to fill in a questionnaire containing three questions to measure loneliness. The questionnaire also documented whether video telephony via the robot, an alternative contact option (for example, a phone call), or no contact with relatives had taken place. The aim was to work out the general acceptance and the benefits of virtual encounters using robots for different roles (users, relatives, nursing staff, facilities). Seventy volunteers with three possible interventions (non-contact, virtual encounters by means of a robot, and any other contact) took part in this trial. The frequency of use of the robot increased steadily over the course of the study, and it was regularly used in all facilities during the weeks of visitor bans (n = 134 times). In the hospital, loneliness decreased significantly among patients for whom the robot was used to provide contact (F(1,25) = 7.783, p = 0.01). In the nursing homes, no demonstrable effect could be achieved in this way, although the subject feedback from the users was consistently positive.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4846
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 01.05.2021

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