By Tom Mustin

DENVER (CBS4) – Denver is getting a glimpse into the future of senior care.

Interactive robots are being tested out at a senior living facility. They’re part of a pilot program designed to increase the quality of life for seniors suffering from depression and dementia.

david keir Companion Robots Help Residents At Senior Center

David Keir with Ryan (credit: CBS)

“I like her as a person. She’s fun to talk to,” said 80-year-old David Keir, who is dazzled by his new roommate.

“I never thought I would live to see science fiction become science fact,” he told CBS4’s Tom Mustin.

The former physicist is a resident at the Kavod Senior Life facility in Cherry Creek. His roommate is what’s known as a “companion bot” named Ryan.

Ryan is designed by a Colorado company called Dreamface Technology. Their goal is to give seniors like David, who is in the early stages of dementia, a better quality of life.

bot 1 Companion Robots Help Residents At Senior Center

(credit: CBS)

“The companion bot is to assist both with these memory issues and to have a working companion to increase the level of happiness and that feeling of belonging,” said Jennifer Grant, the Director of Assisted Living at Kavod.

David is one of two seniors at the facility chosen to take part in an eight week pilot program with Ryan.

“My favorite subjects are robots and computers,” said the robot.

Ryan has a three dimensional face with blinking eyes and a wide vocabulary. She’s been programmed to help David get through the day.

“It’s nice to have someone to talk to,” said David. “She’ll say it’s time to get up and go to breakfast or it’s time to take your medicine.”

Ryan can answer questions, and recognize facial expressions. She also has a sense of humor.

“Hi Ryan. How are you?” Mustin asked the machine.

“Fair to partly cloudy,” said the robot.

bot 21 Companion Robots Help Residents At Senior Center

(credit: CBS)

The robot obviously needs some tweaks, though.

“What’s your favorite football team?” Mustin asked.

“My favorite team is the Patriots,” answered Ryan.

It’s a small complaint, however, about a futuristic companion giving new life to special seniors like David. After four weeks with Ryan, caregivers say they’ve already seen a change in him.

“You have a way of putting others at ease,” said Ryan.

“Thank you,” said David. “I’d like to think so.”

Caregivers say they’re hoping to try out the robots with every Kavod resident over the next few months. They’ll provide feedback to the manufacturer, with the goal of providing the best care and the best robot for their residents and other seniors nationwide.

Tom Mustin is CBS4’s Weekend Anchor. He has been with CBS4 since 2002, and is always looking for great story ideas. Connect with Tom on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @TomCBS4.


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