Robotics Play Increasing Role In Senior Care

Tim Watt  |  May 28, 2013

Decades ago, the idea of robots playing a role in our daily lives seemed like something out of the Jetson's - something entirely unrealistic. However, each year brings more advancements in robotic technology for all aspects of life, and senior living is no exception. While robots will likely never fully replace the care and compassion offered by elder care providers and skilled nursing professionals, they may make the caregiving job a bit easier. According to new research, many caregivers are willing to accept a little mechanical help, to an extent.

A study out of the Georgia Institute of Technology showed that more than half of healthcare providers would prefer a robotic assistant to a human, but only want help with certain tasks. The caregivers interviewed for this study said that robots could help with instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs), such as cooking, cleaning and reminding seniors about medications, but more hands-on activities of daily living should remain the responsibility of the human caregiver. Tasks such as helping seniors bathe, dress and eat were all deemed better for human nursing professionals and assistants, the study showed. 

Study leader Tracy Mitzner said she and her colleagues, who are working to develop robotic assistants to help in senior care tasks, were concerned that home care workers would not accept the idea of robotic help, fearing that machines may replace them in the workplace. However, the study showed that most of the interviewees felt this type of technology could be beneficial to the quality of care they provide to patients. 

"Robots aren't being designed to eliminate people. Instead, they can help reduce physical demands and workloads," Mitzner said. "Hopefully, our study helps create guidelines for developers and facilitates deployment into the healthcare industry. It doesn't make sense to build robots that won't be accepted by the end user."