Seeing that I will turn eighty later this year, at times my mind wanders to what the future might hold for us. We (my wife and I) celebrated fifty-seven years of marriage in May and we would hope that should one of us take sick or become disabled, the other will be around and will be both physically and mentally able to provide whatever care is needed.
That being said seeing that we are living in such a high-tech world today with so much being discovered about Artificial Intelligence, is it possible that some may think that we should entrust the care of our senior citizens (in their upper 70s or 80s) to what have been defined as artificial assistants?
There are quite a few robots in place today that were designed for and are actually providing support for older adults (senior citizens such as my wife and I) who are – how do they like to put it – aging in place. What this means is, most of us prefer to stay at home and care for ourselves as best we can. The alternative would be being forced to relocate to assisted living or nursing homes.
The big thing about such robots is that they will not necessarily look like people. With so many robot movies being around for years and the role robots tend to be portrayed as, it is not any wonder why some people are reluctant to face what the future might hold regarding seniors and robotics. Fact is they are not all like that.
Take, for instance, Hector. As we all know, most robots are mobile. They are usually designed to work in collaboration with a smart home and remote center. Some of the things they are capable of doing is to support older people living at home versus an assisted living facility. Some of the tasks they can perform is keep track of a senior’s eyeglasses, hearing aids, as well as remind the senior citizen to take their prescribed medicines and even quite possibly help in the case of a fall the senior might incur.
We know that as we age, we usually tend to lose muscle mass (unless we are fortunate enough to go to the gym every day). I know for a fact pushing our vacuum cleaner (ours is an old Kirby, fantastic vacuum cleaner but heavy as @#$%^*) just wears one out even if it is self-propelled. You still must get it from point A to point B. Enter small, specific devices such as iRobot’s robotic vacuum cleaner Roomba. These small, specific devices are just what the doctor ordered for those senior citizens that are unable to vacuum their own house anymore.
As we seniors age, we may need assistance with everyday tasks, tasks such as eating, bathing, dressing, and standing up – you know – what many of us know as the “activities of daily living”. Add to the mix is help needed with cooking or managing our medications. Enter the possibility of ‘a robotic hand’ which might also be available to assist when we do our laundry and other tasks around the house.
Think about it – I am sure we already have robots mopping floors, mowing lawns, lifting people into and out of chairs and beds when the individual caring for them is not physically able to do such tasks. Sound unbelievable? But then along came AI driven cars. Who would have believed cars could parallel park themselves or even drive themselves? That one still surprises me although some movies have eluded to it for years.
And then there is the thought that with more advanced robotic technology, things that caregivers are doing now could be replaced with robots freeing up time for relatives and social workers to visit elderly people more often no matter where they live. Some people may not be in favor of robots replacing some of our everyday activities. But, if AI (artificial intelligence) applications can remind seniors of things that are pertinent to their everyday living, chances are that doing so may just remove some of the anxiety and confusion that seniors face every day.
It has even been suggested or mentioned that AI-powered social robots may just provide some level of companionship for lonely seniors. I mean, we all would like to think that we and our mates will be around forever. But truth be told, other than buying a puppy for companionship once a mate is gone, a robot might just be the next best thing. If nothing else, they would be someone to converse with.
The plus side of this equation is that these AI robots are able to work around the clock and are available 24/7. Who says they cannot support aging in place?
Welcome to the future! Interesting concept is it not?
Stay safe and be well.
Until next time!