The Usability and Impact of a Low-Cost Pet Robot for Older Adults and People With Dementia: Qualitative Content Analysis of User Experiences and Perceptions on Consumer Websites

Wei Qi Koh, Sally Whelan, Pascale Heins, Dympna Casey, Elaine Toomey, Rose-Marie Droes

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Worldwide, populations are aging exponentially. Older adults and people with dementia are especially at risk of social isolation and loneliness. Social robots, including robotic pets, have had positive impacts on older adults and people with dementia by providing companionship, improving mood, reducing agitation, and facilitating social interaction. Nevertheless, the issue of affordability can hinder technology access. The Joy for All (JfA) robotic pets have showed promise as examples of low-cost alternatives. However, there has been no research that investigated the usability and impact of such low-cost robotic pets based on perceptions and experiences of its use with older adults and people with dementia. Objective: The aim of our study was to explore the usability and impact of the JfA robotic cat, as an example of a low-cost robot, based on perceptions and experiences of using the JfA cat for older adults and people with dementia. Methods: We used a novel methodology of analyzing a large volume of information that was uploaded by reviewers of the JfA cat onto online consumer review sites. Data were collected from 15 consumer websites. This provided a total of 2445 reviews. Next, all reviews were screened. A total of 1327 reviews that contained information about use of the JfA cat for older adults or people with dementia were included for analysis. These were reviews that contained terms relating to "older adults," "dementia," and "institutional care" and were published in the English language. Descriptive statistics was used to characterize available demographic information, and textual data were qualitatively analyzed using inductive content analysis. Results: Most reviews were derived from consumer sites in the United States, and most reviewers were family members of users (ie, older adults and people with dementia). Based on the qualitative content analysis, 5 key themes were generated: prior expectations, perceptions, meaningful activities, impacts, and practicalities. Reviewers had prior expectations of the JfA cat, which included circumstantial reasons that prompted them to purchase this technology. Their perceptions evolved after using the technology, where most reported positive perceptions about their appearance and interactivity. The use of the robot provided opportunities for users to care for it and incorporate it into their routine. Finally, reviewers also shared information about the impacts of device and practicalities related to its use. Conclusions: This study provides useful knowledge about the usability and impact of a low-cost pet robot, based on experiences and perceptions of its use. These findings can help researchers, robot developers, and clinicians understand the viability of using low-cost robotic pets to benefit older adults and people with dementia.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere29224
JournalJMIR Aging
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022


  • dementia
  • low-cost robot
  • older adults
  • pet robots
  • qualitative content analysis
  • qualitative research
  • social robot

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