Living alone is lonely, and lonelier for older adults who no longer have somebody by their side. Although these senior citizens can live independently, they still long for company, someone they can talk to and interact with and can look after their daily needs. But due to the short supply of younger caregivers and aides, health, well-being, and safety of our elderly are at risk.
Technology is finding ways on how to meet the demands for caregivers to help the elderly and their families. Through perfection of robot caregivers, the void in the future of elderly care is hoped to be filled.
Programmed to care for the elderly, these robots are expected to assist elders to get out of bed, into a wheelchair, assist in getting into the bathtubs. The robot’s ability to communicate is also being fixed so they can interact with the older people.
Robot Caregiver In UK
In the UK, around 1.2 million senior citizens are experiencing chronic loneliness. As part of the trial done by the University of Hertfordshire, an elderly male, Bill, who was living alone was asked to test a robot that they had programmed to care for older people like him.
Bill seems to like the way the robot greeted him with unending “hello.” The robot is programmed to entertain people like Bill by talking to them. During the testing, the robot even asked Bill to dance. A robot may not be able to function beyond what they are programmed to do, but they are entertaining and caring enough that their patients feel empathic towards them.
Paro From Japan
The quarter of Japan’s population is at the age of 65 and above, and with the less number of available younger people to look after them, the solution they are up to is robot creation. Japanese are creating robots that are capable of looking after the elderly population.
Whether we admit it or not, the robots are the answer to the lack of workforce or younger generation to care for the elderly. The robotic device which is a Japanese robot seal (Paro), is created to provide therapeutic care to the elderly especially those with dementia. The Paros was one of the first elderly care robots in Japan. In the newer version of Paro, artificial intelligence is added. So, besides the sensors and motors, it now has learning capabilities.
According to new studies, people with anxiety and depression were able to reduce their psychotropic medication usage by 30% after utilizing Paro. The reduction in oral medication resulted in reduced side effects of these medications, and they were able to save the money intended to buy their meds.
A 104-year-old lady who lost her husband during the Second World War first interact with Paro in a nursing home. She finds Paro very cute, and this little creature makes her laugh as she caresses its soft body.
More Sophisticated Robots, Nothing To Fear
With the way these older adults react to the robot caregivers, it can’t be denied that they don’t just find robots as a mere caregiver who reminds them of things to do or assist them to move around. Robots have been very helpful in easing their loneliness as well. These robotic devices have been their support, and have become their family as they feel cared for and loved. They found a new friend who is willing to sing, dance, answer their questions, and talk endlessly to keep them entertained.
Some may go against the use of robots to care for the elderly, thinking it’s kind of deceiving our elders. Some view robot caregivers as a threat, as if they are capable of snatching from us our future.
Robots are helpless and can do nothing without human manipulation. If ever they are used in the wrong way, it’s human’s doing.
As long as the intention in creating robot is good, like assisting the people, especially the lonely older adults who are left alone in the nursing facilities, they should not be taken wrongly. Robot caregivers are created to help and assist, not to harm and destroy lives.
More sophisticated robots that are capable of functioning very much like humans are now on trials in hope to assist the growing number of older adults needing companion and support.
BBC. (2017, September 5). Can robots take care of the elderly? Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuwP5iOB-gs.
Financial Times. (2016, May 9). The soft side of robots: elderly care. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ppPLDEi82lg.