According to Census Bureau projections, the elderly population in the USA will reach 80 million by the year 2050 – more than double what it is now.
Caring for the elderly and frail population is complicated and expensive. In 2012, Medicare and Medicaid spent nearly $60 billion each on post-acute care.
A lot of the latest innovations in elder care are coming out of Japan where technology to help the older citizens live independently is growing at break neck speed. Robots are being designed that interact with the senior as if it were a person or a pet. Chapit, a monkey-like robot that is manufactured by the Rayton Robotics Company can learn up to 10,000 words and will respond to all of your greetings and conversations. In addition to conversation, Chapit can turn on TVs and lights, change the channel and browse the internet.
Another robot designed for seniors is Paro. It has been described as “a fuzzy, seal-like robot that is about the size of a large cat”, and is ”intended for seniors who are unable to care for real pets because they’re either too frail or they’re in a place such as a nursing home that forbids animals.” Besides being as life-like as possible, Paro reacts to being held, petted and praised. It cries out for attention whenever it is ignored. Interaction with a creation that seems alive should have a therapeutic effect on the elderly.
There are other robots designed more for functionality than companionship. A prime example is RIBA. This robot can lift a person up to 135 pounds, and can be used in getting patients from the bed to the wheelchair and vice versa. To be less intimidating is has been designed to look like a cuddly bear. Another of the functional robots is a robot designed by the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International called Robovie II. It has been designed to help seniors, as well as physically challenged people with their grocery shopping. It reminds the users what is on their shopping lists and can guide them to those items in the store. It can make suggestions about which products would go well with the ones already purchased, and can then carry them for the users. They cannot carry them home, however, as they are designed to stay in the store. Here’s how it works. Before entering the store the shopper puts his/her shopping list on a smart phone or other mobile device. The information is transmitted wirelessly to Robovie II who greets the shopper at the door.
There are several other robotic designs making their debuts into the world of an aging population. All of these technological designs are expensive. Before they ever come down to affordable prices we can help seniors by giving them kitchen utensils with large , easy-to-hold handles, adding grab bars to bathtubs, and just teaching seniors how to stay in touch via Skype.
For more information on helping an aging family member contact the Kabb Law Firm at 216-991-KABB (5222)