Technology has been gradually adding convenience to life for years. Now, with the assistance of robots, seniors will soon be aging in place with a degree of security never before dreamed possible.
Robot aging in place is a unique concept that is revolutionizing eldercare. With millions of baby boomers approaching their golden years but still valuing the high degree of independence by which their lives have been characterized, robotic technologies are being developed to enable the elderly to receive the assistance they need while allowing them to still live at home.
Robots For Aging In Place
Tokyo is at the heart of these innovations. With 22 percent of their population already over the age of 65, they are actively searching for ways to improve the quality of life for seniors. In 2007, Secom Co. introduced a new caregiving innovation called My Spoon. A feeding robot, it assists the elderly and disabled with eating by feeding them with a fork and spoon that is controlled by a joystick.
For those struggling with the need to use a wheelchair, Fujitsu, Ltd. and Aisin Selki Co. has introduced the TAO Aicle intelligent wheelchair. The wheelchair is programmable to travel to preset locations and uses sensors to respond to obstacles, red lights, and other daily travel issues. Another, from Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology responds to basic commands, making it possible for the wheelchair-bound to get around without overexerting themselves directing the chair manually.
At MIT, researches recently created Domo, who is designed to assist in daily household chores. Built with a motion-tracking system and spring-loaded actuators, which make it possible for Domo to lift, carry, and place items. Domo is able to determine the size of individual items and uses those measurements to enable it to pick up each item appropriately and put it away efficiently in the pantry, refrigerator, or medicine cabinet.
Even cars are being designed to accommodate the elderly. Doors are being modified and supports added to assist those who are wheelchair bound or have difficulty walking in getting into or out of the car.
In an effort to generate better quality of life for seniors, other technological solutions are being developed, such as the use of lifestyle monitoring sensors (LSM), which follow a person’s daily routine to learn what the person needs. The robots equipped with LSM, it is hoped, will become companions for the humans who own them. Essentially, the robotic companion and human would begin to communicate and understand one another. Over time, the robotic companion would be able to generate cognitive activities for the person to engage in and to assist or even complete household chores. The companion would be able to remind the person when to take medications, provide a constant link to family and friends outside the home, and would have enough knowledge of a person’s routine to understand that deviations in that routine could indicate a problem with an individual’s physical or mental health and alert the proper relatives or services. To make the companion seem less like a technological innovation and more like a trusted member of the family, technology is being developed to provide the robot with facial expressions and body language for the person to read, just as the robot learns to read theirs.
A recent study in Spain revealed that 80 percent of those over 65 prefer to stay in their own homes as they age. These results are similar across the globe, but with children moving further afield and family members becoming more distant, the possibility of a relative serving as caregiver is diminishing. These technical innovations are allowing more elderly individuals to live at home for longer periods, making aging in place a possibility that just ten years ago seemed far more distant.