Robots Are the Future of Elder Care
In any economy, it is known that one of the most stable careers is one in medicine and in elderly care. No matter what, people will age and get sick, and therefore require medical care. And as time goes on and people age, they will require specialized care and attention. As constant as they may be, like medicine, elderly care is not immune to change over time and the influence of technology. Cutting edge technology is a strong force in medicine and now it is also making quite a splash in elderly care.
There is a great need for nursing home staff in the United States. By 2020, “direct care” is forecast to be the largest job category in the country. This need inspired the creation of robots and semi-autonomous machines that could provide a helping hand. The robotics company Luvozo created the SAM robot, an autonomous-human hybrid that costs nursing homes only 25 percent of what a qualified human nurse salary would cost, and even this early-stage model is able to perform some of a nurse’s tasks.
SAM helps nurses by moving around the nursing home and checking up on residents, looking for fall hazards like clutter and spills, and it has a link to a caretaker. The robot is even capable of smalltalk about sports and weather, to greet the residents when it enters. At this stage, SAM is a nurse’s assistant at-best. Although SAM is multi-capable, the robot cannot provide any medical care.
SAM has already been tested in a real nursing home. Last summer Luvozo introduced SAM into a Washington, D.C. nursing home with reportedly great results. Observers marveled at how residents quickly adapted to SAM, even asking the robot if it was having a good day. SAM could hit the market nationwide as soon as 2017, with additional features, like the ability for family members to leave video messages for their loved ones.
It is difficult to predict where this kind of elder care technology will lead, but it is clear that this is only the beginning. However, not everyone is comfortable with the idea of robot concierges like SAM. When the current youth grow to become the elderly population, they will be very accustom to having machines and technology all around them – but that is not true for the current older generation. After all, there is nothing like personal attention and contact from a caring person