RAPP: Best Practices

Best Practices Lessons learnt
Engage users in the process from the early stages of the research.  Recruiting process. Older adults are not willing to take part in long training and research procedures. Motivation is crucial.
Involve the right users. The right users should meet the user selection criteria and be willing to participate, acquire new knowledge and share their experience. Recruiting process. It is difficult to find and attract the right users. Alternative plans should also be prepared to face the recruiting difficulties.
Getting to know the users. Recognise their difficulties that come from ageing and adapt the training procedures accordingly. Respect and value the group’s experience of life. When vulnerable teams are involved (MCI users) recruitment is complicated. It is difficult to locate independent users and collaborations or/and support from geriatric institutions is needed. The risk in this case is to recruit experienced users and influence your final outcomes.
Explain to the users the real situation and what to expect from the applications and the robot so that they don’t have a false picture of the project’s potential and possibilities. They should not be disappointed or frustrated by expecting unreal applications and outcomes. Health and social professionals evaluated the offered RApps and the human-robot interaction. As gerontology is not a separate and independent profession in Greece but rather an expertise for neurologists, we requested and received evaluation data from two neurologists (expertise in gerontology) from the Greek Association of Alzheimer Disease and Relative Disorders.
Invest adequate time for the team to bond and trust each other. Create a safe and friendly environment. Encourage the freely expression of ideas and opinions. Avoid judgemental behaviours. Absenteeism and drop out.
Some users have health issues that prevent them from regularly attending the sessions.
Some users get tired and quit the process.
During the RAPP project, the user group of technology illiterate older adults has been shortened as some of the users had to face serious health issues and severe accidents. One of the users has passed out.
Provide enough time to users to get accustomed with the robot. It is challenging to collect quantitative data as questionnaires are not very well accepted by users. They found them boring and get tired filling them. The likert scale is confusing them and they usually end up answering without reading the questions.
Provide safe and secure interactions in safe and comfortable places. Attachment. When testing periods are extended the users are getting attached to the procedure and the researchers. A gradual distance should be prepared so that people won’t feel abandoned and used only for the research needs.
Use focus groups, observations and interviews (personal, group) to make conclusions. The above, combined with a safe environment, facilitate users to share their ideas and experience. Ethical protocols are not always followed by institutions. In some cases they don’t even exist. During the research we had to cancel pilot testing in a location due to the lack of an ethical framework and the unwillingness to follow the RApp’s ethical guidelines.
Facilitate the transportation of the users if needed. During RAPP there were some days that the users couldn’t approach the meeting location because they had pain from arthritis or because the weather was bad and they didn’t feel confident to go out and walk on their own. We have managed to support them with taxis or escort them back to their house.
Improve the product (in this case RApps) according to the users’ suggestions and evaluations in order to meet their needs.
Be aware of the ethical protocols in different institutions with which you cooperate and adjust your actions accordingly. If ethical protocols do not apply or be ignored it is better to withdraw.