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Companion Robots: the Solution for an Aging Population Living Alone?

senior robots elderly homeFor seniors who live alone, each day can feel like a challenge. Whether it be losing your glasses, forgetting to take medication, or struggling to do everyday tasks like cooking or cleaning up, life can be difficult for the elderly living unassisted. As care costs rise and the aging population grows, German manufacturer Kuka may be in the process of developing a solution.

Originally devoted to creating technology for factories, Kuka—one of the world’s most successful manufacturers of industrial robots, is shifting its efforts and aiming to automate the home next. Company representatives say that Kuka now seeks to expand their work into the field of consumer robotics and create automatons that assist humans. The ultimate goal is to create small “companion robots” that can carry out tasks such as opening doors, loading a dishwasher, or helping people out of bed. For seniors living on their own, this type of technology could be a huge step forward.

Home robots can offer seniors a much-needed helping hand. They can be programmed to understand users’ habits and to detect changes in behavior—if an elderly person falls, the automaton will automatically alert caregivers or emergency services. If a person frequently forgets to take their medication, the robot can be programmed to remind them each day. For those who are vision impaired, companion robots can alert them if there is a danger of tripping or slipping. The robots can also aid those with physical disabilities, assisting them with everyday tasks such as getting out of bed, washing their hair, or going up and down steps. For those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other conditions that affect memory and cognitive function, a home robot can provide them with prompts so they remember their daily routine and don’t forget important tasks like doctor’s visits, buying groceries, or paying bills.

Robots can also be a huge help in finding ways for older people to stay active and maintain physical fitness. By encouraging users to get out and about, recommending safe exercises and fitness activities, and even assisting with mobility, these companion robots can help improve the physical health of seniors.

The robots can play an important role in improving seniors’ mental health as well. With increased rates of living alone, seniors can often feel alienated and lonely, making them more susceptible to depression. Scientists hope that home robots will not only provide assistance and companionship to the elderly, but that they will help to break down the emotional barriers that degrade the quality of seniors’ lives. The ultimate goal of these robots, and similar innovations, is to allow people to live independently and for longer. By helping users with tasks like cooking, cleaning, and even dispensing medicines, these robots can play a crucial role in improving the lives of the elderly.

Although it may seem strange or uncomfortably futuristic to some, these companion robots can be a safe and effective way to ensure that the elderly are not neglected. With greater numbers of seniors living by themselves, families that are unable to afford caregivers for their elderly loved ones, and rising costs of senior care and assistance, home robots may be the future of personal aid for the elderly.

Although the designs are still in their early stages and these automated companions may not hit the market for another few years, innovation is in progress to make the robots as functional and helpful as possible, and able to suit all the basic needs of elderly consumers. With prototypes made and clinical trials underway, Kuka hopes to continue their research and create more advanced models, which will soon be demonstrated in conferences, symposiums, and eventually museums and other public spaces.

Everyone needs a bit of a helping hand as they age—what if that helping hand were on a bionic arm? For seniors, companion robots could be the answer to living independently and greatly improving their quality of life.


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Fritzie
5 years ago

The cost of a companion robot might be above the incomes of most seniors. It would be nice if Medicare could pick up the cost of one for a senior who is in need, but couldn’t afford it, but I doubt that would happen, at least not in the near future. Unfortunately, there seems to be no quick and easy answer to the dilemma of how to help the elderly in need of assistance.

Cyn
5 years ago

A robot would sure help me when the human aide I have for my husband isn’t around, just bending to load the dishwasher would be a God send, also making the bed with the new 14″ foam mattress is something that takes me hours to do, right now I have someone to do it, however never hurts to have a back up, I love my I-phone 7 plus, computers etc. & I am “elderly”. As I read the other opinions what popped into my mind was not having to worry about people stealing (assuming someone doesn’t program the robot to do so)

Gloria P. Sterling
5 years ago

As for as I’m concerned and in my opinion, there is no substitute for compassionate human contact. So happy I have family who care enough that I’m not lonely for care.

Lynn
5 years ago

What will they cost ? I have an elderly mother who does not want “human caregivers” ( besides me ) in her house. Maybe she would
accept a “robot companion”.

D.R.Alarcon
5 years ago
Reply to  Lynn

In my experience robot likely not to pocket things from folks in their care either. Human caregivers did little for my 90+ mom in assisted living for 3days after taking a fall. Go robot

drc3
5 years ago

I just wrote a commentary on Fox News regarding new WiFi surveillance systems being used to monitor seniors in their homes and the whole concept really enraged me due to the personal violation of privacy. But robots are a great idea that protect privacy and offer assistance in a positive, non intrusive way. I like this idea and think it has value!!

Gloria P. Sterling
5 years ago
Reply to  drc3

What makes you think a robot can’t be set up for the same kind of system?

PaulE
5 years ago

Absolutely correct Gloria. It is very simple to build a video / audio surveillance capability into any robot and then use a common WiFi signal, like what your cable TV company or other service provides you, to send the feed to a central monitoring location. That data could then be either stored for future playback or viewed / listened to in real-time by an authorized user. Much like how some home or business security systems operate today.

Ivan Berry
5 years ago
Reply to  PaulE

Right, and lest we forget, it’s already been done with common devices like our TVs and scanner/printers, both to listen and to take pictures.

Aardvark
5 years ago

Can’t stop thinking about the Will Smith movie, “I, Robot”.

Lisa
5 years ago

As with most things, one size does not fit all. My mother, who recently died at the age of 98, did NOT adapt to new technologies well. They confused and frustrated her more than assisted her. Those who are like my Mom, with dementia and resistant to new technology, would not be aided by this type of technology necessarily. For her and others like her, the human element and accommodating her desire for low-tech solutions work much better. I can see that this may help some, but I hesitate to say the same for dementia sufferers, as it is known that the best way to help them is to “meet them where they are”, and sometimes that is in the same locale as rotary phones.

William Meeks
5 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

98 is 98. Maybe just the fact that an elder has something to interact with is important. Take for instance the companionship of a dog. Dogs love people and react in a way that brings happiness. But this is not about dogs it’s about receiving support in ways you need it when you need it. Support can be programmed just as a human companion can be programmed to recognize what support you need at a particular time. To an elder I think being alone is the toughest part of life. Presence of a ‘friend’ can make a huge difference. Just ask a dog.

drc3
5 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

You make a lot of excellent points and I agree, as I watched my 92 year old Mother struggle with her cell phone. She never was able to manage it.

M. Brewer
5 years ago
Reply to  drc3

However when the 30+ come of age…..no problem….this is thinking ahead! My Mom who would be 117 if she were alive would relish the idea. She was always progressive! Thus so am I at 79….bring on the robots if I can afford one when that time rolls around, I would be giving that technology a welcome.

Roger Hackenberry
5 years ago

I want one that will shovel the snow from my sidewalk. With my asthma and heart condition, shoveling snow is impossible. Teenagers are less and less reliable, and more and more expensive. If I don’t soon get someone (something?) to shovel my snow for me, I’ll have to give up my house and move into an assisted living facility.

Jeffrey Cahoon
5 years ago

An “AutoComp” (my moniker for a robotic companion), would be an absolute boon for seniors! I hope this will be available soon but, I see finances being a set back since robotics is not cheap, I certainly could not afford an AutoComp as I live on Social Security and have Medicare and mediCal as many of us do, but hey, bring on the robots, they would be welcome in home!

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