Friday, June 13, 2014

Is Rosie the Robot the Future of Caregiving?

For those of us of a certain age, we were aficionados of the TV series, The Jetsons. We will remember their housekeeper, Rosie the robot.  (Admit it, who of us hasn't at one time or another, wished we had a Rosie). In the Pew Research Center April 2014 report, US Views of Technology & the Future, one of the items surveyed was the use of robotic caregivers.  According to the key findings

65% think it would be a change for the worse if lifelike robots become the primary caregivers for the elderly and people in poor health.

Page 8 of the report expands on this finding:


Countries such as Japan are already experimenting with the use of robot caregivers to help care for a rapidly aging population, but Americans are generally wary. Some 65% think it would be a change for the worse if robots become the primary caregivers to the elderly and people in poor health. Interestingly, opinions on this question are nearly identical across the entire age spectrum: young, middle aged, and older Americans are equally united in the assertion that widespread use of robot caregivers would generally be a negative development.

And although we aren't likely to be jetting around in our personal spaceships a la George Jetson, we have written several posts on autonomous cars, and the survey question on this point shows a keen interest:

Of the three inventions we asked them about, Americans are most interested in riding in a driverless car: 48% would like to do this if given the opportunity, while 50% say this is something they would not want to do. College graduates are particularly interested in giving driverless cars a try: 59% of them would do so, while 62% of those with a high school diploma or less would not. There is also a geographical split on this issue: Half of urban (52%) and suburban (51%) residents are interested in driverless cars, but just 36% of rural residents say this is something they’d find appealing.

Now if I could just get that theme song out of my head....

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There seems little doubt that automation will come to aging services, but it’s not likely to be in the humanoid form many now imagine. Just as today’s automated kitchen has replaced the kitchen maid of a bygone era, so an automated assisted living residence is likely to replace the caregivers of today.

The challenge will be to retain the warmth of human touch and the engagement of human conversation. Those are intrinsic to communal housing solutions and absent from the stay-at-home aging-in-place notion that seems to reflect the tenor of our time.

The culture of today is bound to change. Some will see change as change for the better. Others will bemoan that they were born too late while they yearn for what was in an earlier era. That’s simply human nature.

The tide of history rolls through impediment. The way people will age in 2064 will be nothing like what it is today in 2014, any more than 2014 is analogous to aging in 1964 (which seems like only yesterday, while the future seems far distant).

Posted by: Jack Cumming | Jun 14, 2014 1:57:06 PM

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