It might seem like something from science fiction, but scientists have made enough advances in robotics that they may soon play a much bigger role in our daily lives. This could especially be the case for older people seeking a caretaker or companion.
The companion idea is already a reality. If the names Lovot, Pillo, Paro, Moflin, and Qoobo don’t mean anything to you right now, they soon might. All are robots driven by artificial intelligence and machine learning that allow them to deliver the benefits of human connection. Most of them are aimed at the elderly. For example, Pillo helps people keep track of medications.
Both medical care and caretaker robots are in various stages of use or development. While the idea of robots takes some getting used to, it’s potentially good news for older people, especially those who are experiencing age-related cognitive decline.
The Need For Robot Caregivers For The Elderly
With innovations in healthcare and more awareness of healthy lifestyles, people are living longer than they did in previous decades. Many are also increasing their lifespan, which refers to theyears where people maintain good cognitive and physical health.
However, many older people still reach a point where they need a caregiver. And their numbers are growing. The U.S. Census Bureau projects seniors will outnumber those under 18 in 2034 for the first time in United States history.
That will create a situation where caregivers might be in short supply. As it is, experts believe unpaid family caregivers already do about $470 million worth of work every year. The AARP estimates that 41 million caregivers provide 34 billion hours of unpaid care. It’s an area where robots could prove extremely helpful.
Service Robots and Elderly Care
Japan, which anticipates a shortage of one million caregivers in the coming years, has taken the lead in the area of robots as service workers. Perhaps the most famous robot in Japan is the Honda Asimo. However, Asimo is just the tip of the iceberg. Japan is “rolling out robots in nursing homes, offices and schools as its population ages and workforce shrinks,” according to the BBC.
One popular robot is the Telenoid, a small, baby-like robot with no legs and small arms. Workers in nursing homes report that it works well, especially with dementia patients who seem to react to it better than they do humans.
Sales of medical robots have also increased, rising worldwide by 74% in 2017 alone. Most people associated robots with the surgical theater, where they can accurately manipulate surgical instruments. The da Vinci robot has already performed more than 6 million surgeries worldwide.
What type of tasks could a medical robot perform as a caregiver robot in an older person’s home? According to Robotic.org, caregiver robots can easily perform tasks such as fetching food or water. They also could meet social and emotional needs by playing games and providing entertainment. Other, larger robots may be able to help solve mobility and transportation issues. And robots can help those with cognitive issues by keeping track of schedules for appointments and medications.
For dementia patients, pet-style robots could also provide comfort and interaction with older people. Many such animals already are on the market, including robot dogs, cats and tiny ponies. As technology continues to evolve, expect robots to become more commonplace in hospitals, adult care facilities and even in your own home.