Objective: We examined the potential of conversational agents (CAs) to support older adults’ self-care related to chronic illness in light of lessons learned from decades of pedagogical agent research, which investigates the impact and efficacy of CAs for a wide range of learners. Background: The role of CAs in education (i.e., pedagogical agents) has been long studied, but their potential for supporting self-care has received less attention, especially for older adults. Methods: We reviewed work on pedagogical agents and considered how it informs the design of CAs for older adults. We propose a framework for designing CAs to support older adult self-care, which organizes a review of work in this area and integration with the pedagogical agent literature. Results: Our review of the pedagogical agent literature revealed an evolution from teaching machines to interactive, social systems that influence student motivational as well as learning outcomes. To integrate this review with work on CAs and self-care, we developed a framework that specifies how self-care goals evolve with stages of an illness, communication goals that support self-care at each stage, patient needs, and requirements for CAs to support these needs. The review identified an agenda for future research on CA functions and features that help older adults accept need for self-care, establish self-care, and sustain self-care over time. Conclusions: Integrating insights from the pedagogical agent literature with research on developing CAs for self-care defines an agenda for developing and evaluating CAs to help older adults manage illness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)369-378
Number of pages10
JournalHuman Factors
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2021


  • aging
  • conversational agents
  • learning
  • motivation
  • pedagogical agents
  • self-care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Applied Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'A Framework for Design of Conversational Agents to Support Health Self-Care for Older Adults'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this