- As lifespans lengthen, the proportion of elderly in our populations is increasing, but how will they be supported?
- Social robotics may take over many tasks in aged-care facilities and the home.
- What does it say about humanity when we leave the care of our most vulnerable to machines?
“The world’s elderly population is surging, and in many countries health and home care services are already stretched. Researchers in New Zealand, with South Korean colleagues, are working on a project that suggests a different solution – robots. South Korea provides the robot-making expertise, and New Zealand the network of rest homes as testing grounds. Both countries have received funding from their governments to collaborate on health-bot projects.
“In Gisborne, on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, Lillian Neilson loves to sing those old songs from her youth. The staff and therapists of Selwyn Village in Auckland sometimes sing or hum along with her, turning to their phones to search for words she’s forgotten.
“‘I used to be a singer,’ she says. ‘You’ve heard of Daphne Walker [New Zealand star of the mid-20th century]? I was the young Daphne Walker.’
“But Neilson, 84, a mother of four and a former maternity nurse, doesn’t know any other Māori in the rest home, and few residents add their voices to hers.
“‘I do feel lonely, so I generally come in my room and I sing my songs. I put the telly on and sing the music that comes over.’ But Paro, a fluffy Canadian “seal” with large, fathomless eyes, provides a willing audience.”
Read this WikiTribune article in its entirety, click here.
“Jordan Hall (left) and Victoria Warfel hold one of the therapeutic robotic harp seals.” – Lititz Record
This December 2016 Lititz Record article about the grand opening a Signature Senior Living – Lititz included this about the robotic harp seals.
” … the hit of the open house were the PARO robotic harp seals. Jordan Hall, assistant director of the Lancaster facility, and Victoria Warfel RN, wellness director of the Lititz facility, explained the seals to interested guests. Warfel said that the seals are used in the memory support area. Seymour is the Lititz facility’s seal, while the Lancaster facility’s seal is named Lucy. Each robotic seal can recognize its name and residents’ voices as well as tone of voice. It and responds to being petted, cuddled and talked to and reproduces the sounds that a real harp seal makes in various situations.
“‘Harp seals were chosen because people don’t have expectations of a harp seal. If it were a cat or dog, people expect them to act in a certain way, and some people are allergic to cats and dogs or may be fearful of dogs. The harp seal can be whatever people want it to be, and it’s proven to reduce stress in patients,’ Warfel explained, adding that there are about 100 of the robotic seals in the US.”