It is actually not very complex (to me at least) and people around the world has been developing robots that can help elderly go about in their daily lives. I have been involved in robotic developments and one group is actually going overseas for a prestigious robotic competition.
So what exactly does robots in aged care do?
After being exposed to this theme over and over again and seen many developments, I can summarized simply into supporting the seniors and their carer both in ADL and IADL, plus Health support. Here is how my dream aged care robot (let's just call it Lotus1+) will be like:
Physically: Lotus1+will be just about a meter perhaps, like R2D2 in Starwars. The reason is that it will be a good height for senior to support onto if needed. It should have very strong shoulders and can support the weight of the senior when needed. Of course, like Amazon's Echo, Lotus1+ will response when called and move to be with the senior, side by side. And like Echo, it will be linked into the cloud.
Let's do the IADLs first:
Provided the senior is cognitively fully intact, Lotus1+ can be a RFID device with directly link to a electronic wallet or Paypal or even has a ATM sort of function that dispenses exact amounts when needed and authorized through bio-makers like thumbprint. Online shopping can be done and delivered to the doorsteps with Lotus1+ showing the senior all the options. House cleaning and Laundry will require other robots in the home to support but can be controlled with instructions given to Lotus1+. There are already voice activated lighting, TV and other smart devices, even at this very moment, for example, Echo with Philips Hue. Lotus1+ can be getting all these commands and executing them seamlessly. Video calls will be a breeze with voice activation and Lotus1+ curved face serve as a sharp LED screen as well, able to show the caller and speak with friends and families seated comfortably. Lotus1+ will be the ultimate entertainment and social robot, able to play both music and videos on demand and perhaps even play games for cognition training or physical games for maintenance rehabilitation.
Managing medications will be a breeze as well, something like the Pillo will work fine. We will talk about the Health + functions later on to further support healthcare.
On transportation part, well, Lotus1+ can probably either serves as a solid walker or even a front motorized compartment of a wheelchair, talking the seniors out and about in the community!
On the part of ADLs, Lotus1+ can definite help with transfers and be a ambulation support if needed. The rest of the ADLs likely need other household equipment like the human bathing machine from our Japanese counterparts. Smart diapers with wet sensors available now can even tell Lotus1+ to support with diaper changes together with the care giver!
Now, coming to the Plus part. Lotus1+ can have a all in one sensor incorporated, a little robotic hand placed on the senior's left mid chest will gives us all the vitals, Temperature, Oxygenation, Heart Rate, Respiratory Rate, Blood Pressure, Single Lead ECG tracing and perhaps even lung sound to automatically detect abnormalities like wheezing or crepitations. All these information will sync wirelessly into the senior's care provider and doctors can do tele-consultations through Lotus1+, prescribing medications remotely and have them delivered right to the doorstep. Since Lotus1+ is programmed to dispense as well, seniors will not need to remember when pills they are on.
With cameras as eyes, changes in temperature or even heart rate can also be detected remotely without touching the senior. Lotus1+ serves as ambiance monitor, always screening for calls for help, acoustic signals for falls and activity level of the senior. Wound can be photographed and process though wound technologies and monitored for healing or non healing thought these lens. Even glucose levels can be checked with a in-built non prick glucometer! Weight and grip strength of the elderly can also be automatically detected and monitored with Lotus1+. Grip strength can give an indication of the nutritional status while monitoring weight is crucial in monitoring general health. It is even more crucial in seniors with frequent cardiac failures.
All of these are already possible, but in bits and pieces. A simple Youtube research can show you even the robots going out and doing shopping for the seniors!
I envisioned such robotic support can come sooner, perhaps in the next 5 to 10 years since all the elements are already available. It is a matter of assembling and the design of the robot!
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