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Robots enhancing senior living dining experience

Source: Current, FPCIW

The landscape of senior living is undergoing a remarkable transformation, where technology meets compassion. In an era marked by innovation and automation, Allisonville Meadows Assisted Living in Hamilton County's Fishers has embraced a revolutionary approach to elevate the dining experience for its residents. Robots are no longer just the stuff of science fiction – they are now a tangible reality, gracefully navigating dining halls and contributing to the warm hospitality that defines senior living environments.

Since May of this year, the corridors of Allisonville Meadows Assisted Living have echoed with the gentle hum of automated servers, courtesy of Bear Robotics, a pioneering food service robotics company. These robots, under the banner of a partnership with Direct Supply, aim to complement the human touch rather than replace it. As Doug Lane, a member of Bear Robotics' sales team leading the Direct Supply collaboration, emphasizes, the goal is to "improve the quality of service in dining by automating repetitive tasks that occupy a lot of staff time."

Bear Robotics' robot waiter “Servi" (Photo courtesy of American Senior Communities)

The tasks in question encompass everything from ferrying plates from the kitchen to the floor, bussing dishes, and even taking orders – all of which are now efficiently managed by these robots. Known as "Servi," these cylindrical automatons have been programmed to traverse the facility, ensuring the timely delivery of delectable meals without any hitches. Equipped with advanced artificial intelligence software featuring spatial mapping and self-driving capabilities, these 41-inch tall and 17-inch wide machines can expertly navigate around obstacles, making their journeys seamless and unobtrusive.

It's not merely a logistical transformation; it's a shift in the very fabric of senior living interactions. Staff members now have the opportunity to focus on building meaningful connections with residents, rather than being engrossed in mundane tasks.

Bear Robotics servers are also used at The Barrington of Carmel and Rose Senior Living in Carmel.

The impact of robot servers was also exemplified by the findings of the Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing (FPCIW). This prominent center released a white paper that delves into the positive outcomes of a 90-day pilot program involving robot servers in two California Front Porch communities – San Francisco Towers in San Francisco and Casa de Mañana in La Jolla.

The white paper reveals that a staggering 65.4% of residents reported an improvement in their overall dining experience, attributing it to the presence of these high-tech servers. Furthermore, 51.2% of residents believed that the robot servers enabled staff members to allocate more quality time to diners, fostering a stronger sense of community. Davis Park, Vice President of FPCIW, highlights, "Among other benefits noted by pilot participants… include improved employee safety and wellbeing; and enhanced employee recruitment, retention, and morale."

Kari Olson, President of FPCIW, underlines that robots are not here to replace humans but to augment their efforts, especially in the face of staffing challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bear Robotics pilot program is an embodiment of technology's potential to enhance the aging experience while simultaneously alleviating operational strains.

As the culinary landscape in senior living establishments evolves with the assistance of robots, it's evident that these mechanical marvels are much more than servers – they are catalysts for connectivity and sources of joy for residents and staff alike. While these robots embody the future, their impact on senior living is here and now, breathing new life into the age-old tradition of sharing meals and forging bonds.


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