Robots in Elderly Care: A Lahti Living Lab case study







The interest in using various digital technologies, including service robots, is increasing in elderly care. Technological solutions aim to cope with the challenge of growing imbalance between the amount of caregivers and care receivers. Technology use in work is often a major change, but when planned carefully, it may provide a welcome addition and support at work. Attitudes towards robotics in elderly care are often mixed. They concern, for instance, quality of care, ethical issues as well as work division between human beings and robots. The term care robotics encompasses “all machines that operate partly or fully autonomously performing care-related activities for people with physical and/or mental handicaps” that are related to age and/or health-related restrictions (Goeldner et al. 2015, p. 115). Care robots may, for instance, simplify tasks of the daily life for aged and/or handicapped people, increase the quality of life of their users by giving them more autonomy (Herstatt et al., 2011), or protect them or perform certain tasks with a certain quality standard (for example, serving medication, drinks or food). (Goeldner et al. 2015)

Within Lahti Living Lab, a case study was conducted in 2016 to identify the impacts and acceptance of care robot implementation among users in elderly care services – care personnel and elderly customers – with the help of the Human Impact Assessment (HuIA) approach. The data were collected in elderly care services in the city of Lahti (in two round-the-clock serviced care homes and a geriatric hospital) in December 2015 – April 2016, when the service robot ‘Zora’ was introduced to these organizations. Both care service personnel and customers are users of the robot, in different roles. The robot was mainly used for activity and recreation, but also for support in rehabilitation that improves and maintains social and cognitive abilities in addition to physical abilities. The data were collected during 27 sessions through ethnographic observation. In those sessions, the robot was either introduced to the customers in a special session or acted as part of the regular group activities (exercise or literature groups) of the care homes. Each session lasted for about an hour, and comprehensive notes and photos were taken. In addition, focus group interviews of the care personnel (34 people) and customers (5 people) were also conducted. The data were analyzed with the methods of qualitative content analysis.

According to the findings, the implementation of the robot has many kinds of impacts on the elderly customers, care personnel and care work. Part of the employees had a personal or professional interest in ‘novelties’ in care work that enable provision of better services and improve work ethics. Some of them were willing to act as ‘main operators’ of the robot in the work communities and even used their free time to get acquainted with the robot. The robot was perceived as a useful tool for providing wellbeing and activity to customers as well as new perspectives and contents to one’s work. On the other hand, for other employees, the robot in the work environment implied meanings of risk, even danger, and led to withdrawal and bypassing the whole issue. Some employees felt that the robot is just waste of money and causes additional work when work is already so busy. Moreover, there were concerns related to time use and commitment of the whole work community, and pottering about using robot versus ‘true’ care work. The care workers brought up also ethical concerns. Some felt the ‘childish’ robot as degrading towards the elderly, but positive reactions and interest of the elderly customers later affected the attitudes of the care personnel in a positive way.

The customers considered the robot as entertaining, funny and interesting. The robot stimulated moving and led to reminiscing because of its child-like character. An occupational therapist noted: “When people were supposed to raise their feet, someone who never does that, did it, because the robot shows exercises in a calm way.” The robot use also created various kind of interaction with the robot or between customers and care personnel. A care worker mentioned: ”Interaction was generated, as the operators of the robot could answer questions at the same time. People started to talk to a doll like this quite well.” Examples of negative impacts on the customers were irritation, reserve and fear. “Go away, this is silly”, as put by one of the customers. Some were confused when the robot addressed them and they didn’t know what was expected from them. A customer also noted that “This goes too technical. It is human contacts that I miss. Human to human, that is important, and not any toys.”

The attitudes towards robotics in care are thus twofold: both enthusiasm and fears exist. The ‘place’ of the robotics – a rather novel issue – in the field of care is still in many ways undefined. After the first steps of robot use, there is potential for true rehabilitative work and activities with the help of the robot, if its use is well planned. Implementation of robots in elderly care requires rethinking of the services and work practices. Implementation of robots is an issue of the whole (work) community. Reactions differ, and care personnel should know the customers well to be able to anticipate how they react. The role of ethics is a key issue. Orientation is of vital importance to highlight and deal with essential issues increasingly skillfully in these processes. Societal discourse on robots in care, based on practical experiences, is also needed.

This case study was part of the ROSE project supported by Academy of Finland, Strategic Research Council (Project name: “Robots and the Future of Welfare Services”; decision number: 292980) and the LUT Research Platform on Smart Services for Digitalisation. Videoclips concerning the case study, various stakeholders’ experiences, are forthcoming during the spring 2017. The user knowledge that was obtained via the Living Lab study is actively utilized by City of Lahti in plans concerning future use of robots.


Melkas, H., Hennala, L., Pekkarinen, S., Kyrki, V. (2016): Human impact assessment of service robot implementation in Finnish elderly care. ICServ2016. The 4th International Conference of Serviceology. Tokyo, Japan, September 6-8, 2016.


Goeldner, M., Herstatt, C., and Tietze, F. (2015). The emergence of care robotics – A patent and publication analysis. Technological Forecasting & Social Change, 92, 115-131.

Herstatt, C., Kohlbacher, F., and Bauer, P. (2011). Silver product design – product development for older people. Working Paper No. 65. Hamburg, Germany: Institute for Technology and Innovation Management, Hamburg University of Technology.

For further information, please contact Helinä Melkas, helina.melkas(at)

Photo: Satu Pekkarinen

Robots and the Future of Welfare Services (ROSE)


ROSE (Robots and the Future of Welfare Services) is a research project funded by Strategic Research Council of Academy of Finland. It started in October 2015.

The principal objective of this project is to assess the potential of service robots in renewal of welfare services. The project adopts a multidisciplinary and holistic approach to study how advances in robot technologies allow product and service innovation and renewal of welfare services, when such services are developed jointly with users and other stakeholders, and when ethical issues are taken into account. Individual homes and care homes are utilized as Living Lab environments during the project.

The analysis is done at three levels:

  • Individuals (human-robot interaction, ethics, individual support functions, human-robot co-existence)
  • Services and service organization (welfare services enabled by robots in different roles)
  • Society (societal acceptance, renewal of service systems, innovation ecosystem)

The research questions include:

  • How are the service users’ expectations and experiences of welfare services changing due to the introduction of robots?
  • What social and ethical issues and risks arise in human–robot interaction?
  • How is the welfare service system changing due to the introduction of robots?
  • What opportunities and threats do robotics present to the welfare service system in terms of quality and accessibility of services?
  • What are the challenges of robot and welfare technology innovations and export at national and global markets?

The consortium comprises Aalto University (coordinator), University of Tampere, Tampere University of Technology, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Laurea University of Applied Sciences and Lappeenranta University of Technology (Lahti Unit). The disciplines represented are technology, sociology, nursing science, philosophy and industrial management.

For further information, contact Helinä Melkas, helina.melkas(at)

Smart Cities in Smart Regions 2016 Conference – Call for Papers open till February 14!



Smart Cities in Smart Regions international Conference is organized by the Lahti University of Applied Sciences in co-operation with number of international, national and regional partners including University of Helsinki, Aalto University and Lappeenranta University of Technology. The Conference is an excellent meeting, networking and discussion forum that brings together thinkers, planners, practitioners, academics and experts from businesses, private and public sector government to share latest ideas, discuss products, processes and to debate issues and challenges around themes relating to the creation of more ‘Smart Cities in Smart Regions’.

In the field of Living Lab, the program offers e.g.
• Living Lab Activities (Session B5)
• Clean and user-oriented design (Session C3)
• Future learning environments at FellmanniCampus

The call for proposals for oral presentations and posters on the mentioned themes and subthemes is now open! Alongside academic papers, also best practises and case studies are welcomed and they will be accepted according to a more practical criteria. We encourage you to submit abstracts of academically or practically focused proposals, best practices and cases. Theory and practice will be equally emphasised in the programme. Please submit an abstract via electronic form by 14th of February 2016

Esteemed keynote speakers will give deep insight and latest knowledge during the conference. The announced Keynotes will be given by Mr. Markku Markkula, President of the European Union Committee of the Regions and Professor Doug Crawford-Brown, Director of the University of Cambridge Centre for Climate Change Mitigation Research. The Programme will include interesting and up to date keynotes, parallel and poster sessions, workshops and site visits. The main themes of the conference are Future Development of Regions, Citizens and Urban Sustainability and Smart Industry and Innovation.

For further information, please visit to our webpage Smart Cities in Smart Regions 2016 or do not hesitate to contact us via e-mail,

CleanAcceptance – project explores energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies in housing from consumer perspective


This project contributes to the development of sustainable, low-carbon community. CleanAcceptance –project aims at understanding consumers values, needs and value creation process concerning low-carbon related technologies in housing. This is explored with people in different situations of life: students, adults and ageing people.

The main goal is to find and identify the low carbon models of housing and develop the existing ones from the perspective of the user. To reach the main goal this project has been divided to four sub goals: 1) The identification of micro level mechanisms and processes that promote low carbon housing; 2) The development and dissemination of the user knowledge to aid the development of the related business sector to support the increased use of low carbon solutions; 3) The building of the Low Carbon Roadmap; 4) The increase of people’s knowledge in the need for and means to achieve low carbon society.

CleanAcceptance –project is funded by European Regional Development Fund / Regional Council of Päijät-Häme and LUT.

Further information: Suvi Konsti-Laakso, suvi.konsti-laakso(at)


Innovation book for social enterprises


Social entrepreneurship has become a ‘hot topic’ at the European and global level as well as in countries such as the UK, Denmark and Italy. They are ahead of Finland in utilization of such enterprises. Due to, e.g., population ageing, problems in financing public sector services and the need to utilize intangible assets more effectively (human capital, organizational know-how and networks), such enterprises have a major potential in the society. Social and societal value is created by providing better services more cost-effectively, while focusing on sustainability from the points of view of personnel and customers.

Social enterprises are often seen as a source of new and innovative solutions to persistent societal problems and a means for better inclusion of employees and customers. Because social enterprises combine business logic and social goals, they have vast potential to renew business and social life; therefore, it is vital to understand how their creation can be initiated and supported.

Innovation book for social enterprises advises, guides and inspires social entrepreneurs as well as those seeking information on this important topic. As far as we know, this is one of the few manuals about innovation for social enterprises but will hopefully not remain so. One example of the contents  is the participatory design of one social enterprise linking this theme to living labs and co-creation.

Co-creation of public services – The Tooth Troll Story


The Tooth Troll project started with the question why a remarkable part of teenagers do not come to the dentist appointment (i.e. “no show-problem”). Understanding the experience of young customers and oral health care professionals and – based on that – identification of development goals and ideation led to a wide-ranging collaboration between the Oral Health Care of the City of Lahti and LUT Lahti. Now the network comprises companies, sport clubs, city day care, home care of senior citizens etc.

Read the whole story.

For more information, please contact Professor Helinä Melkas, helina.melkas(at)

Call for Papers – Participatory Innovation Conference 2013, 18-20 June, Lahti, Finland


Call for Papers – PARTICIPATORY INNOVATION CONFERENCE 2013, 18-20 June, Lahti, Finland

The 3rd Participatory Innovation Conference, PIN-C will be held in Lahti, Finland on 18-20 June 2013. Organised jointly by Lappeenranta University of Technology, Lahti School of Innovation (LUT LSI) and University of Southern Denmark, Sønderborg Participatory Innovation Research Centre (SPIRE), this conference will bring together researchers, artists, designers and practitioners. The 3-day programme will include presentations by leading keynote speakers, research paper sessions, applied theatre, a hands-on innovation session with industry cases, and artistic interpretations of research.

Participatory Innovation combines theories and methods across academic fields that describe how people outside an organisation can contribute to its innovation. Join this conference to help identify ways for industry, the public sector, and communities to expand innovation through the participation of users, employees, suppliers, citizens, members, etc. – on a strategic level, in concrete methods, and in day-to-day interactions.

Industry, public agencies, and communities increasingly adopt people-driven and open innovation, as they realise that innovation cannot come solely from within an organisation. Innovation happens in between people outside and people inside – because they have different stakes and perspectives.

In academia, new breakthrough contributions to understanding and supporting innovation also emerge in the borderlands between disciplines that traditionally do not collaborate. PIN-C 2013 is a forum where participants from different disciplines and organisations can meet and challenge each other to develop the field of participatory innovation.

The conference theme for this year is Participation as Performance. In particular we welcome contributions that in concrete terms explore how performance can support innovation, or that draw on performance theory and methods to understand participation and innovation.

Keynote speakers include, inter alia:

Prof. Giovanni Schiuma, Chairman of the Arts for Business Institute and Professor in Innovation Management at Università della Basilicata (Italy) Prof. Elena Antonacopoulou, GNOSIS, University of Liverpool Management School (UK)

Paper tracks

The trademark of this conference is that participants contribute with papers in one of five tracks that each explore a potential combination of disciplines. This year you can submit to any of these five exciting paper tracks:

1. Designed Interactions

Chairs: Trine Heinemann, SPIRE/University of Helsinki and Stephan Wensveen, SPIRE A great challenge for designers and designers-to-be is how to deliver and present their design proposals. This is particularly the case for designers working within Participatory Innovation projects, where a range of issues for the design proposal need to be considered in relation to the other stakeholders, e.g., can a design proposal speak for itself so that it can be evaluated purely on its aesthetic and functional qualities, or should it be delivered along with a design pitch that reveals the underlying reasoning for the final product? The decisions on how to present a design proposal might depend on a variety of issues, such as time-limitations, the relationships and expectations of the client, or the position of the designers themselves. This track focuses on the various ways in which design proposals (the presentation of a preliminary or final design to stakeholders) can be delivered and on the consequences of these differences. The track brings together designers for whom design proposals are part of everyday practice, and experts on interaction and communication to explore how the delivery of a design proposal can be consequential for the way in which stakeholders in the design process respond to the design proposal.

2. Design Anthropology and Social Innovation

Chairs: Helinä Melkas, LUT LSI and Brendon Clark, Interactive Institute This track brings together design anthropologists and business researchers and practitioners who focus on social innovation. Combining design and anthropology has over the years led to innovations in how ‘the social’ is addressed in design processes. There is currently much debate about what social innovation is and how it should be defined. Even though the concept is widely used, its contents have remained abstract. Both words – ’social’ and ’innovation’ allow for many interpretations. Social innovations have been defined, for instance, as innovations that are social both in their ends and in their means. How does social innovation play out in different efforts? How does working relationally with other interests in practice contrast with efforts that attempt to maintain a social innovation focus throughout? What are the practices of inclusion and exclusion? This track seeks participants who explore how design anthropology and social innovation are linked; how design anthropology contributes to social innovation and vice versa. This track also seeks to understand social enterprises, in particular.

3. Social Shaping of Innovation in Organisations

Chairs: Timo Pihkala, LUT LSI and Henry Larsen, SPIRE This track brings together firm-level innovation management with organisational change. If we understand processes of innovation as emerging in human interaction, how can we understand the processes of collaboration and conflict that are going on between the involved? Who are the stakeholders involved in innovation processes, and which roles do they end up in? How can we understand what it means to ’organise’ such activities, as managers, designers, consultants or researchers? We invite both researchers and practitioners to participate in this track with their experience, in the form of papers or narratives.

4. Participatory Business Design

Chairs: Tuomo Uotila, LUT LSI, and Jacob Buur, SPIRE Bringing people with different backgrounds together is a powerful way of discovering new business opportunities. But how can people with different stakes, different horizons of imagination, and different means of expressing their views collaborate? How can theatre, games and arts-based methods contribute to developing business and business processes? How can futures research and foresight activities contribute? How does the role of brokering support participation? This track focuses on how to encourage truly participatory processes of business design, and on which results this can yield. The track brings together business people (who innovate business models), designers and artists (who visualise futures to spur dialogue), and design and business researchers (who study and develop such processes).

5. (Regional) Innovation Policy and Local Participation

Chairs: Vesa Harmaakorpi, LUT LSI, and Henrik Sproedt, SPIRE Today, when people talk about innovation systems they typically mean organisational, regional or national approaches to innovation that try to map and organise the different stakeholders, competences and procedures that are relevant for the innovation process. These approaches are normally described in an innovation policy – an institutionalised way of mastering innovation across boundaries efficiently. Despite extensive studies of innovation at individual, group and institutional levels there has not been much focus on the interdependence between these levels. Innovation can be seen as a process where perspectives given at the institutional level need to be interpreted at the individual level, to understand how to deal with uncertainty in innovation projects. In practice, innovators often must deal with the paradox that innovation policy does not make sense in local interaction across boundaries. We invite researchers and practitioners of private and public organisations to this track to share their understandings of how innovation policies help to innovate and how local practice can affect policy.

More detailed track descriptions will be published in early November.

Programme on applied theatre in innovation

Chairs: Anne Pässilä, LUT LSI, Preben Friis, Dacapo A/S & Allan Owens, University of Chester In accordance with the conference theme, we encourage applied theatre actors and artists with experience and interest in innovation and organisational change to submit an Intent to Participate. This group of active theatre people will in turn visit each paper track, and in this way explore the opportunities for theatre to support social shaping, business design, organisational learning, innovation policy making, etc. Participants who like to join this programme are encouraged to also join the pre-conference workshop on 16-17 June 2013.

Pre-conference workshop on applied theatre in innovation on 16-17 June 2013 for artists, actors, small theatre ensembles and researchers who have worked with theatre and related art forms in supporting innovation and change processes in organisations. The aim of the workshop is to exchange experience on various formats of theatre support for change processes, and to prepare the theatre programme at the conference. The group will explore what emerges when applied theatre and innovation research are combined.