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Can Robots Make Good Companions For the Elderly?

Can Robots Make Good Companions For the Elderly?

Finding homes, caregivers and companions for our ever-growing elderly population has become a great challenge for many. Those suffering from dementia and other challenges of getting older often need a lot of help from family, nurses and friends. But there is a new little helper showing up in eldercare facilities that is offering a bit of help and hope for those that need a hand.

NBC News reports about these little “humanoid bots” that are performing much-needed tasks for those living in nursing homes. The small robot fits on a bedside table and can remind a patient to take their medication on time and demonstrate exercise routines to keep the elderly more active. But they are also able to hold a conversation, answering a person’s questions like what’s on the menu for lunch today and what the weather is like outside.

The CEO of Zora Bots, Tommy Deblieck, wants to make it clear that the robots are not there to take over all the tasks of a human caregiver. They just simply offer small break for overworked nurses and family caregivers. Deblieck explains, “These robots are not there to replace humans. They can’t make any decisions. They carry out pre-set tasks or simple conversations to ease the strain on the nurses and make people’s lives a little more pleasant.”

Soon, the Zora Bots company will be rolling out a robot with a new and very important function that may even save lives. In December, testing will begin on robots that can try and stop a patient with dementia from wandering. The way the bot will accomplish this task is through reading a patient’s body language to determine if they are confused and apt to wander or get lose. If the robot determines this is the case it will begin questioning the patient with distracting questions and send a silent alarm to caregivers alerting them of the situation.

And it seems Zora Bots are just the introduction of using this type of technology with the elderly. University of Toronto’s Dr. Goldie Nejat has been working on a bot called Casper, a 4 foot tall robot that has a mannequin’s face and carries and iPad. Nejat hopes that those who work with Casper will be able to emotionally attach to the robot and it can help those suffering with dementia who can benefit from mental stimulation. Casper can do things like prepare lunch with a person, organize games, phone calls with family members and hold conversation. Nejat explains, “There’s been some research which suggests that you can delay the onset or progression of dementia through repeated cognitive stimulation and social engagement. So we thought, can you use a robot to increase the amount of stimulation these people get?”

What do you think of including robots in nursing home and eldercare settings?

Do you think the elderly will benefit from robots like these?

*Getty Image*

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