Let’s talk “Robot Caregivers”

Let’s talk “Robot Caregivers”

[caption id="attachment_6719" align="alignleft" width="300"]nytimesrobotcaregiver Image credit: Souther Salazar (New York Times)[/caption]

I couldn’t help but smile and nod when reading geriatrician Louise Aronson’s New York Times article entitled “The Future of Robot Caregivers”. As a follow up to my previous post about High Tech and High Touch – which focused on Jibo, the world’s first family robot (which has raised over $1M on Indiegogo within it’s first week of crowdfunding) – I wanted to highlight a few points from Dr Aronson’s article which I found particularly insightful and well worth repeating.

1. Loneliness is an epidemic and we need an antidote.
“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.”

2. Caregiving is hard – physically, emotionally and financially
“More often than not, it (caregiving) is tedious, awkwardly intimate and physically and emotionally exhausting. Sometimes it is dangerous or disgusting. Almost always it is 24/7 and unpaid or low wage, and has profound adverse health consequences for those who do it.”

3. We don’t have enough caregivers
“We do not have anywhere near enough human caregivers for the growing number of older Americans. Robots could help solve this work-force crisis by strategically supplementing human care.”

4. We need to be realistic about alternatives
“In an ideal world, each of us would have at least one kind and fully capable human caregiver to meet our physical and emotional needs as we age. But most of us do not live in an ideal world, and a reliable robot may be better than an unreliable or abusive person, or than no one at all.”

As Cynthia Breazeal, founder of JIBO, says – the next frontier of technology is emotion. We’ve seen our devices become increasingly “smart”, now it’s time to make them “caring” and I can’t think of a better place to start than with our growing older adult population.

Like Dr. Aronson, I am optimistic about the role that technology in general - and social robotics in particular - can play to provide not only tactical support of daily activities but also emotional support and companionship. A reliable, attentive “robot caregiver” that is always there, can help with everyday tasks and can listen and smile sounds good to me!