Jan 21, 2019

The “sweet” robot helping older people stay at home for longer

Many older people require help to remain living independently in their own homes.

They may need to be reminded to take their medication, or help with dispensing the medication in the right doses. They may need to be reminded of appointments they have on each day.

When older people don’t have any family or they live with their spouse who is equally as frail, a nurse or personal carer may be required, and this can come at quite a significant cost to the older person. Depending on how many times per day they require medication it could be anywhere from $60, up to a few hundred dollars per day.

The cost of medication assistance at home means this type of care will not be suitable for everyone, but it can be the reason people prematurely move into aged care – not because their health requires it, but because they simply can’t afford the help that would enable them to remain living in their own home.

Moving prematurely into a nursing home is often not ideal. It means the person is giving up a large degree of their independence before they really have to.

Image: Pillo.

Pillo a ‘companion’ for older people

With ageing populations a growing issue around the world, new technologies are being developed with the aim of providing cost-effective solutions to help older people remain living in their own homes for as long as possible.

One device that has recently come to our attention is called Pillo. It’s a voice-activated ‘companion’ and a ‘hub’ for medical information that has been developed with a range of useful features for older people who are living at home.

The device is activated by the words “okay Pillo”, just as many of us have become accustomed to activating devices with the phrases “hey Siri” or “hey Google”.

Pillo stores medication safely, and can dispense it. It provides reminders for when to take medication and for health appointments. Face-activation software means the medication will never be dispensed to the wrong person. The device is able to recognise several different faces.

Pillo can give you nutritional information about the food you are eating. It has video calling features that allows the person to keep in touch with loved ones or medical professionals. Pillo will also contact friends or family if medication is missed.

Pillo can also communicate the older person, filling them in on the day’s news or weather, and act as a ‘companion’.

Founders saw loved ones “struggling with their health”

Founders Emanuele Musini, Aiden Feng and James Wyman came up with the idea for Pillo when they saw friends and family struggling to remind independent at home as they grew older.

A spokesperson for Pillo told HelloCare, “We came up with the idea for Pillo after watching some of our loved ones struggle with their health, especially with remembering to take their medications.

“These were often our parents or our grandparents, who were alone at home. And so we wanted to build them a companion to keep them company, help them manage their health, and to remind them to take their medications. The result is Pillo.”

Easy-to-use design

The device has been specifically designed to be easy for older people to use.

“The features that make Pillo particularly suited for older people are a simple design, as far as showing one thing on the screen at a time, the ability to connect with family and caregivers, it’s a voice-first device, meaning every action can be triggered by voice, and Pillo’s personality is targeted at being a friendly companion.”

“We designed Pillo so that anyone can use it,” they said.

According to the company, Pillo was not designed to replace caregivers, but to provide some support in addition to other care.

“Positive” response has caused stock to sell out

So far, the reception to Pillo has been “widely positive”, and the company sold out in December.

The developers are making improvements to the device based on feedback it has received since it’s been on sale.

Though not yet available in Australia, Pillo will be launched internationally in the second half of 2019.

According to the Pillo website, Pillo costs US$499, or the equivalent of nearly AU$700. It can be paid for in monthly instalments.

Many users say Pillo has its own personality. It’s “not intimidating”, one said, in fact it’s rather “sweet sounding”.

Image: Pillo.

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