Your Friday robot fix: We need robot caregivers

I can, and do, write prescriptions for her many medical problems, but I have little to offer for the two conditions that dominate her days: loneliness and disability. She has a well-meaning, troubled daughter in a faraway state, a caregiver who comes twice a week, a friend who checks in on her periodically, and she gets regular calls from volunteers with the Friendship Line.

It’s not enough. Like most older adults, she doesn’t want to be “locked up in one of those homes.” What she needs is someone who is always there, who can help with everyday tasks, who will listen and smile.

What she needs is a robot caregiver.

—Louise Aronson, MD

From a medical practitioner and geriatrician is a view on robots as not dehumanizing, but a source of companionship, comfort and ‘always on’ emergency assistance for older adults and the disabled, particularly those who live alone. Dr Aronson also advocates assistance robots for everyday tasks such as bed transfer, lifting and dressing assistance. Mentioned favorably: PARO the Japanese ‘seal’ robot, MOBISERV Kompaï, Sweden’s GiraffPlus but notable by omission GrandCare Systems, the GeriJoy tablet-as-pet companion and (perhaps too new) the JIBO ‘family robot companion’ [TTA 18 July]. She also makes the apt point that those of us who’ve spent most of our adult lives interacting with machines will be quite comfortable with robotic companions. The Future of Robot Caregivers (New York Times) Also Katy Fike PhD from the Aging 2.0 group takes a look in their blog at Dr Aronson’s insights as well as JIBO.

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