Are Robots the Future of Care?

by Sinéad Nolan

pepper
Pepper: Robots need love too

Elderly care is a concept we barely think about until it concerns ourselves or our loved ones, but as you may have noticed its been in the news a lot lately. The reason for this is that the over 65 population in the UK is growing. Estimated to increase 7 million in the next 20 years, soon an estimated 1.7 million people will be of an age where they require care which will create a severe workforce shortage in the care industry.

In monetary terms, this increase in population will lead to public expenditure on long term care to rise from 11.3 billion to 31.1 billion by 2032, with private expenditure to rise from 7.3 to 22.4 billion in same period. Which begs the question: how do we fill in the gaps in the care market?

robobear.jpg
Robobear shows off his lifting skills. 

Enter care robots. Apart from the workforce shortage the current care industry is largely not fit for purpose, with people’s daily living needs going unmet.

With robots such as Paro, Pepper and ChihiraAico being produced in the past few years, care robots are not an entirely new concept. Toyota recently built a nursing aide named Robina, a ‘female’ robot, that can communicate using words and gestures. Robina’s brother, Humanoid, serves as a multipurpose home assistant. He can do the dishes, take care of your parents when they’re sick, and even provide impromptu entertainment: one model plays the trumpet, another the violin.

humanoid
Humanoid entertains the crowd

However, it still seems the idea of robots in care might take a while to catch on in the UK, with the idea still seeming quite frightening to many.

An often undervalued job in our society, the role of carer requires endless supplies of patience, commitment and hard work. Carers in the UK work deal with the literal and the figurative human waste that many of us could not, or would not want to deal with. But it is an important job, vital to millions of people on a day to day basis.

Either way, it’s seems when it comes to robotics and the future of care whether we like it or not: change is near.  

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