At Indiana University Bloomington and Toyota Research Institute, researchers are working together with older adults to design a home robot to support older adults’ ikigai, or “meaning in life,” as they age. Changes in and sometimes loss of a sense of purpose, coupled with a lack of meaningful engagement with the community, can be major challenges of aging. Improving the quality of later life, therefore, requires maintaining and sometimes increasing older adults’ sense of purpose by addressing their need to conduct meaningful everyday activities, maintain interpersonal relationships, and participate in and contribute to society.
Through interviews, surveys, observations in a dementia care center, and ongoing co-design sessions with older adults, we are developing social robot interaction capabilities and intervention activities that facilitate older adults’ reflections on what brings them meaning and provide ways to maintain and strengthen their ikigai. To do this, we build upon the commercially available QT robotic platform by developing relevant perception capabilities and personalized ikigai models of and recommendations for participants. Our aim is to enable our robots to help older adults achieve increased feelings of ‘ikigai’ by helping them identify and reflect on activities and relationships that they find meaningful, and suggesting further opportunities for developing meaningful pursuits and social connections. We also see the possibility of our “ikigai robot” to be designed to support both the ikigai of older adults and (indirectly) their family and formal caregivers.