Companion Robots in Elderly Care

By 2050, the UN estimates that the global population of over-65s will have risen by 181%. By comparison, the 15-65 population will see just a 33% rise. Along with the ageing population, we are also experiencing a crisis in elderly care. This is a problem across the globe, and one that needs to be urgently solved.

Technology may offer some of the answers. Companion robots for the elderly are being touted as a legitimate way of tackling the global shortage of carers.

Bo in Elderly Care

Enhancing Care

Plans to introduce companion robots for the elderly centre are enhancing the care experience, providing some interaction whilst principally taking care of any automatable tasks and ensuring the person is safe. With mundane tasks and difficult jobs (such as lifting a person, for example), taken care of, the human carer is free to spend quality time seeing to the elderly person’s well being.

Support and Service

Robots can provide welcome relief for both patients and staff at hospitals and care homes. Performing general patient checks reduces costs whilst increases the amount of time staff have to spend with those patients who require more attention.

Having a robot around has also been shown to keep elderly people more active in their own homes. The increased independence offered when a person has a robot to keep an eye on making sure they are safe can reduce anxiety and offer some degree of interaction to alleviate potential loneliness.

Bo is an excellent example of what can be achieved with a robot companion. As well as being able to play games and music, share the news and weather forecast, Bo makes basic conversation and therefore offers some superficial company. He also offers reminders, such as for taking any medication. Unlike some smaller companion robots, Bo stands at around waist height, meaning there is no bending involved when interacting with him, and little need for moving around.

Bo tracks a patient’s basic functions and can report any falls, thus alleviating some of the anxiety that often drives elderly people into care homes when they are mostly still able to take care of themselves. Likewise, Bo keeps an eye on people, either autonomously or via his telepresence functionality. A carer can login and check on their patient remotely. That being said, Bo does not by any means replace human care, merely complements it.

Complement, Not Replace

The notion of robots fully taking over from human carers and leaving our elderly with just a machine for company is repugnant, and despite concerns that such a movement could occur, this is most certainly not the case.

It is important to remember that the ‘elderly’ is not one big monolithic entity. The group is made up of individuals of varied age groups with very different needs, abilities, and levels of independence. Clearly, there is no catch-all method of using robot companions in elderly care. Both social architectures and technology should be used together in order to give the best care possible.

GIANT Health Event

Bo has recently attended the GIANT Health Event at the Old Truman Brewery in London from 28th to 30th November. This was Europe’s largest event focusing on innovation in Healthcare.