Real-Life Story–Buckingham’s Choice
When Edith Duff and her dining companion head to the dining room to enjoy lunch at Buckingham’s Choice, a continuing care retirement community in Frederick County, Md., the other residents take notice. While the spunky 86-year-old has no lack of friends, her lunch date today is far from typical—and may even be considered futuristic. Edith is eating with a robot.
Edith’s robot is an iPad connected to a moveable base that can be remotely controlled by an outside user. Using Skype, family members can tour Edith’s apartment, chat with her, and even join her for lunch or other activities on the campus of the retirement community. The robot is as tall as Edith and allows her to connect with family members in a more interactive way than Skype or other video conferencing applications alone.
Don Duff, Edith’s son, purchased the robot for his mother shortly after it was developed. “My son was part of the team that helped create this technology and after hearing him talk about it, I knew it would be really great for my mom, so I bought the 10th one off the line,” he said.
The robot is called a MantaroBot and was developed by a Germantown, Md.-based product development services company. In the year since Edith has had the robot, it has garnered a lot of attention. Her fellow residents are fascinated and excited by the device and its many possibilities, and the technology was recently featured in an aging special on Al Jazeera America.
Edith’s daughter, Wendy, who lives in Los Angeles, uses the technology most frequently and is the person behind the robot for today’s lunch date. “This is so much more advanced than any other current way of communicating,” noted Don, who encouraged his siblings to start using the robot. “My mother says that it’s the next best thing to her kids actually being there. When we call, she has the biggest smile on her face, and you can tell she feels like you are standing right next to her.”
In addition to helping the large family of five kids keep in touch with their mother, the robot also provides valuable peace of mind, since the kids can check on their mother at any time. It also allows Edith to fit catching up with her children into her impressively busy schedule.
A resident at Buckingham’s Choice for more than 10 years, Edith has a full social calendar. “Buckingham’s Choice has been amazing,” noted Don. “It just gives me chills to know that my mother is so active and really enjoying her life. I could call her right now and she’d tell me all about art class and dance class and who knows what else, and she’d have to pencil me in.”
When she’s not busy with other activities, Edith helps create a variety of signs for the community. She and her husband, Wendell, established a family sign business called Signs by Duff in 1955 that is still run by one of their sons. Today, she enjoys using her design talents to help promote community events.
Edith originally made the move to Buckingham’s Choice with Wendell, who passed away several years ago. “My Dad moved so that mom would have an easier life and be well taken care of when he died, and he really got his wish,” said Don.
Buckingham’s Choice provides Edith with a full and enriching retirement lifestyle, and her robot adds an extra special dimension. Whether she’s dining with friends or with a robot powered by a family member, Edith always feels connected.
Published: April 2014
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