Understanding older adults’ initial perceptions of robot appearance and function: Implications for acceptance

Megan A. Bayles, Jennifer Lee, Travis Kadylak, Wendy A. Rogers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: As the aging population grows, it creates more demand on home care support and healthcare resources. Domestic robots have the potential to support older adults to age-in-place. However, not much is known about how older adults initially perceive robots intended for home use and everyday living activity support. Objective: Our goal was to introduce older adults to a variety of robots that could assist with several tasks within the home to support their activities. The literature shows that function and appearance of a robot can influence older adults’ attitudes. We explored whether older adults’ first impressions were influenced by the aspects of function and appearance. Methodology: Data were from a previously conducted interview study. We extracted the participants’ qualitative response to the question about their initial impressions of six different robots. These data were coded according to whether the older adult focused on function, appearance, both, and other. Results: When discussing both function and appearance, the older adults had mostly positive comments. Most older adults in this study focused on the robots’ function. The robots with the more industrial appearances had first impression sentiments focused on function. This contrasted with robots that were animal/human-like, where sentiments co-considered appearance and function. We noted two emerging themes. First, older adults found the robots useful for others or their future selves but did not necessarily want or need them currently; second, they found the robots redundant to other technologies they have in the home (e.g., Alexa, the internet). Conclusions: Older adults’ first impressions of robots for domestic support mostly focused on the function and abilities of the robot. Appearance was discussed at a less frequent rate and was often discussed in tandem with the robot’s functionality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2023


  • aging
  • domestic robots
  • perceived usefulness
  • technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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