Robots deliver connection to Kansas City seniors

Benji & Jeremy

Story by: Abby Dodge
Posted at 2:23 PM, Dec 07, 2022

Enjoy the broadcast version of the story here.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Inside the busting dining room of Senior Star at Wexford Place, wooden tables are filled with food and conversation.

“It’s nice to be around young people,” said Raetta Norris, an 80-year-resident at Senior Star. “It’s nice to be around the younger people.”

The community’s newest employee is only a few months old.

Benji the service robot joined their team in time to celebrate the major fall holidays.

Staff have dressed him us as a vampire, turkey and most recently a reindeer.

“At first you just kind of really wonder about it,” Norris said.

The women dubbed the ‘board of directors’ by the staff have warmed up to the idea of a robot companion.

“You know it doesn’t take much to excite us folks,” said Mary Kelly, another resident. “A little change in the routine is valuable, but he’s been a lot of fun.”

Residents at Wexford Place were worried Benji would take away jobs from the servers they love interacting with, but he has helped them devote more time to personal connections with the residents.

“We’re here to make sure coffee is hot. We’re here to take care of whatever they need, and this allows us to do that, especially when we might be an employee down,” said Jeremy Constance, food and beverage director at Wexford Place.

“The food industry right now is struggling with that.”

While Benji the bot sang a resident happy birthday Wednesday morning, the dining room lit up with smiles and laughter.

“It’s nice,” said Opal Hill, while she laughed along. “It’s different.”

Senior Star at Wexford Place is considering bringing in another robot to explore more opportunities for their residents.