Robots In Nursing Homes: Coming To Adelaide Aged Care?

In this day and age, the possibility of employing robots is not far from reality, especially with Australia’s growing ageing population. In Japan, several robots like Toyota Human Support Robot and HAL body suit are already available and expected to increase production to assist in rapidly ageing Japan. Cyberdane’s Hybrid Assistive Limb or HAL is an exoskeleton-type robot suit that when worn, can increase someone’s ability up to ten times.

In an interview with Australian Ageing Agenda, Professor Wendy Moyle, director of the Centre for Health Practice Innovation at Griffith University, “For me, one of the most important or key things is about having the right robot for the right purpose.” This is true because there are many types of robots that can assist older people. For example, there are robots built to carry them, serve them food, or do laundry. Some are social robots that offer company for lonely aged individuals.  Although Prof Moyle support robots in aged care, she said that no social robot could still replace human activity and companionship.

Unlike Japan who are very vocal in their efforts and beliefs that in the future robots can work instead of human beings,  there has been lots of resistance and fear of robots taking over in aged care in Australia to date. Experts believe that Australians will be more open now in the use of robots. Prof Moyle explains, “I think the people that think we shouldn’t have robot need to actually, I guess open up, and think they are around. They actually are here. They are here in everybody’s homes, whether they like it or not. So they’re in their cars or they are in their television or vacuum cleaners, etc.”

Hitoshi Fukomoto, executive director of Kinoshita Care, believes that robots could deliver a higher standard of care than poorly skilled care workers. In a Sydney forum, Mr. Fukomoto said that, “While robots cannot exceed the best quality care workers, they are a lot more efficient and deliver better care than the workers with no or poor skills.” In 2012, Kinoshita Care started to use social robots in its 142 facilities. Recently, they purchased 40 robot power suits that enable care workers to carry and lift bed-ridden residents.

The fear of robots taking over in aged care industry is not necessarily true. For example, the HAL body suit still employs humans and just improves their skills. It can also help those who have problems walking or have a hard time moving around. Essentially, as long as they’re cost-effective and can provide better care, everyone can highly benefit from the use of robots.

It seems only a matter of time until robots become commonplace in nursing homes, and when it happens it will change the experience of ageing forever.  Do you think the Adelaide aged care industry and their residents will welcome robots into our daily lives?

Regards, Ben

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