Why would Carebots be of interest to Japanese society? Due to a decline in birthrates in Japan, the vast population of people are 65 years old and over. According to the country’s prime minister, Fumio Kishida, births dropped below 800,000 in 2022. He is highly concerned about the country and how it will continue to function as a society. Based on a Merrill Lynch report it projects a shortage of one million caregivers by 2025. However, Carebots have become the most obvious solution for elderly care. To this end, one-third of the Japanese government’s budget is allocated to develop and support Carebots.
What are Carebots? These are robots specifically designed to assist the elderly or those with limited mobility. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO), is an independent organization that sets standards for more than 160 countries. It has created a standard (ISO 13482) to ensure interactions between Carebots and human safety. The Panasonic Reysone Carebot was the first robot to meet the standard for service robots. How so? The robot transformed from a bed to an electric wheelchair. Another humanoid robot developed in 2015 was Robear, developed by the RIKEN-SRK Collaboration Center for Human-Interactive Robot Research and Sumitomo Riko Company. Robear helps transfer seniors from a bed to a wheelchair or helps those who need assistance to stand up.
Carebots are not limited to people who are unable to get up from a bed. They can also monitor physical activity, detect falls, and feed them. Others are meant to engage with older people to reduce and prevent cognitive decline and provide companionship and therapy. This will also make it easier for care staff to manage dementia patients. For instance, CT Asia Robotics in Thailand developed the Dinsow, eldercare robot. This specialized bot is purposefully meant to assist seniors. How so? It will assist them by tracking their health, videophone for calls, setting reminders to take medication, and even a built-in karaoke machine.
Not only has there been a demand for elderly care, but the coronavirus pandemic also heightened the need for nurses. According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), global sales of medical robots were on the rise before the pandemic. However, it’s predicted to double in the upcoming years. For instance, Grace is a robotic healthcare assistant designed to help nurses and doctors. Hanson Robotics developed a humanoid robot that is equipped with sensors. This bot has a thermal camera to detect a patient’s temperature and pulse. It can also diagnose illnesses and deliver treatments. The assistance of Grace was crucial during the worst of the pandemic when telehealth and contactless care were the only means of receiving medical attention.
How would a community of elderly people react to this human-like robot? Grace was placed to the test at Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital to help seniors battle isolation. All residents could interact with Grace. She is designed to listen when people talk, generate responses, tell jokes, speak about topics of interest, and even move by rolling her eyes, neck, and hands. The senior residents recognized that the facility was understaffed and overworked. In reality, they could not spend time with the aging population to defeat loneliness.
There are endless newly innovated Carebot creations throughout the globe with intentions to assist the elderly and help those with physical limitations or mobility. Technology and society are becoming increasingly interconnected. By this means, it helps caregivers or healthcare workers additional time to provide human interaction. Needless to say, Carebots will never be a replacement for human care but will reduce mental burnout for caregivers and provide efficacy in daily tasks.