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Robots to lead fitness lessons for the elderly

The Straits Times | Zhaki Abdullah | Sunday, Oct 4, 2015

Dr Yaacob (centre) joins seniors in taking cues from the Robocoach at the Silver IT Fest at Nanyang Polytechnic yesterday.

Photo: Infocomm Development Authority

A very special fitness coach will soon make its debut at several seniors' activity centres islandwide.

Called Robocoach, it is a robot that uses motion-sensor technology to ensure its elderly students do their exercise routines correctly.

Originally developed by students from Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Robocoach is already available at the Lions Befrienders seniors' activity centre in Mei Ling Street. The Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) hopes to roll it out to five seniors' activity centres by the end of the year. Twenty other centres will get an elderly-friendly tablet or NeuroAtHome, a device that uses motion-sensor-activated exercises to provide physical and cognitive therapy to seniors who have suffered strokes or have disorders such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's.

These innovations were among 24 exhibits shown yesterday at Nanyang Polytechnic at the launch of the Silver IT Fest, a nine-day IDA event. Started in 2007, it aims to familiarise seniors and their families with IT through workshops and exhibitions. The Fest is part of the Digital Inclusion programme, which aims to give seniors, the needy and the disabled greater access to technology.

Also announced yesterday was Smart Eldercare, a collaboration between IDA, the Agency for Science, Technology and Research, NTUC Health, and St Luke's Eldercare.

Smart Eldercare aims to explore how technology can help come up with solutions to common challenges in the caring of seniors. Technical trials for these solutions will be run at eldercare facilities by NTUC Health and St Luke's Eldercare.

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said: "As chronic diseases become more prevalent with a greying population, IT has immense potential to make healthcare more accurate and reliable and, at the same time, more convenient and comfortable for our seniors."

Ms Christina Gan, cluster director for social and family development at IDA, said technology was not meant to replace people, and the human touch was still needed.

Madam Zaiton Abu Bakar, 60, was one of 20 appointed yesterday as Silver Infocomm Wellness Ambassadors for her efforts to teach seniors to use things such as WhatsApp or book hotels or flights online. She also alerts them to dangers on social media."If there is something on Facebook that is doubtful, I will tell them that it's likely to be a scam so that they will be aware and not be fooled."

This article was first published on Oct 4, 2015.
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