Sep 05, 2023

Most older people wouldn’t mind being cared for by a robot at home

Untitled design (61)
An older person with assistance robot Garmi. [Source: Technical University of Munich]

Key points:

  • Many more researchers are looking at the development of care robots as our global population ages and the number of older people grows – projected to be 1.5 billion worldwide by 2050
  • Researchers collated 1130 responses between November 2018 and February 2019, including 208 from Ireland, 260 from Finland and 664 from Japan
  • Declining birth rates and ageing  populations could result in a shortage of carers in the coming years with robots offering a potential solution

A new international study has found the majority of older people would be comfortable interacting with care robots at home but there are still some concerns surrounding their use. 

A team of researchers from Ireland, Japan and Finland analysed the different concerns and ethical issues of participants, their families and carers surrounding the use of these robots.

The study documented different approval ratings:

  • 77% of Japanese participants approved
  • 70% of Irish participants approved
  • 53% of Finnish participants approved
  • 5% of all participants said they would never want to use a care robot at home to assist in looking after a family member

Ethical concerns highlighted potential issues with the use of robots in care settings including:

  • Privacy concerns 
  • The use of personal information such as a user’s location
  • Whether nurses and doctors should be able to access information about user’s health and care such as vitals like blood pressure

“From our results, we can infer that social implementation of care robots can be promoted if developers and researchers encourage potential users to participate in the development process, proposed in the form of a co-design and co-production concept,” said Professor Sayuri Suwa who led the research at Japan’s Chiba University.

Prof Suwa said the use of care robots with monitoring cameras has become common in Japan to make up for a shortage of carers.

“However, there are no discussions among users – older people, family caregivers, and care staff – and developers regarding the willingness to use care robots, the protection of privacy, and the appropriate use of personal information associated with the use of care robots,” she explained. 

“The desire to improve this situation and to promote appropriate utilisation of care robots beyond Japan was the impetus for this research.”

We now know older people want to age at home for as long as possible, but researchers have been investigating the role robots and Artificial Intelligence (AI) can play in assisting older people at home and in aged care for a while.

Since 2018, a team of scientists from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and partners have been investigating how their humanoid services robot, Garmi, can assist older people at home in real-life scenarios while also considering the ethical concerns shared by older people.

Garmi is the size of a human, moves on wheels and has two flexible robot arms that are programmed to sense touch, perform mobilisation training with a user and network with attending physicians. 

Would you let a care robot look after your older loved one? Let us know in the comments below.

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