Japan trials robotic carers in nursing homes

The Japanese Government fears a shortfall of carers will leave elderly unattended.

Japan trials robotic carers in nursing homes

What happens when there are too many old people needing care, but not enough workers to meet their needs? In one Tokyo nursing home, they use Pepper – not the seasoning, but a robot especially designed with the elderly in mind.

Built by SoftBank Robotics Corp, Pepper is programmed to speak from scripted dialogues as it guides senior residents through gentle exercise sessions.

Kazuko Yamada, an 84-year-old fan of Pepper says: “More people live alone these days, and a robot can be a conversation partner for them. It will make life more fun.”

Known as an elder-care robot, Pepper is one of 20 different of models being funded in a trial by the Japanese Government in Shin-tomi nursing home. If the program succeeds, it hopes to encourage the robotics sector to continue to develop artificial intelligence that can support carers in a population swelling with elderly people.

In 2015, almost 27 per cent of Japan’s population were aged 65 and over – in other words 34 million people. In Australia, it was closer to 15 per cent, or 3.6 million people.

The Japanese Government projects that such is the growth in senior citizens that by 2025, there will be a shortfall of 380,000 specialised carers.

Currently, only 1.7 million elderly Japanese live in aged care. The vast majority of people aged over 65 are still at home and approximately one in six lives alone. Thus the potential for artificial intelligence to be used within the wider community is huge.

Among the line-up of electronic helpers at the Shin-tomi home, there are a few whose only task is to bring a smile to the residents’ faces. There is Paro, a furry, pastel-coloured seal that responds when petted, and AIBO, a small metallic dog with a puppy-like attitude.

Then there are the more practical robots, such as Tree, an upright guide that steers those who have trouble walking and encourages them with a gentle feminine voice, and other devices that help carers lift residents from beds and move them between locations.

The Government hopes that a strong export market will develop for the Japanese-made robots. So far, Paro robots are used in 400 Danish senior citizens homes.

Would you welcome a robot helping you around the house? Do you see yourself striking up a conversation with an electronic gadget?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    30th Mar 2018
    I would appreciate seeing them in action before making up my mind; off hand, I would say yes help is help and much appreciated. Would those suffering from dementia be excluded?
    30th Mar 2018
    Sen.Cit.89 I was at an International U3A (University of the Third Age) conference in October 2016 and saw Pepper in action so can claim some first hand knowledge and I think they are great.
    The whole presentation about the development of robotics to help with the aging problems was really great and I am looking forward to some of that development coming here.
    It is not just in Aged care homes but in particular they are being used to help people remain in their own homes for longer even when they have no immediate family to help.
    Certainly dementia was not a deterrent to their usefulness. They actually, in some cased, provided help with activities that improved some people's mental capacity.
    I think everyone at the conference fell in love with Pepper :-)
    30th Mar 2018
    The conference was in Japan -- sorry, I meant to add that.
    ray @ Bondi
    30th Mar 2018
    another group of people out of work.
    30th Mar 2018
    give me a break. may be ok as a novelty thing but there are thousands of things that can go wrong
    30th Mar 2018
    Well, robots would be unlikely to tie the elderly to their beds, slap them or shout at them as some human carers have been known to do! Robotic pets are a great idea, too... all the health benefits from petting and cuddling them without the attendant over feeding of doggy treats or the vet bills.
    Polly Esther
    30th Mar 2018
    As long as they are not called daleks and scream " exterminate".
    30th Mar 2018
    A robot doesn't care about anything..
    30th Mar 2018
    Robot technology is fairly advanced even now and will get more sophisticated. What business owner wouldn’t have a work force of robots if they could do the job. No holiday or sick pay, no trying to employ the unemployable.
    30th Mar 2018
    Or a robot wife. No whining or complaining and it has an off switch. It can't even take you to court and take your money and you can update the model every couple of years. The present ones are probably a bit cold and they just lay there during sex ,should make most married guys feel right at home. :)
    31st Mar 2018
    Have to say I’m glad I don’t know Tib. What a bore!
    30th Mar 2018
    Sounds like the future to me. I hear they have come a long way with sex robots as well. Ladies your days are numbered.
    30th Mar 2018
    Men's days are even more numbered Tib!
    30th Mar 2018
    Women care about money not men while men care about sex. So men are as safe as it gets if they have money and woman are not.
    30th Mar 2018
    Especially old women.
    30th Mar 2018
    Yep, there is an old saying which is frequently true even today
    The definition of a successful man is one who can earn more than his wife can spend
    The definition of a successful woman is one who can find such a man ;-)

    2nd Apr 2018
    Hopefully if and when I need nursing care, there will be robots available to help me around the house

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