For seniors who live alone, each day can feel like a challenge. Whether it be losing your glasses, forgetting to take medication, or struggling to do everyday tasks like cooking or cleaning up, life can be difficult for the elderly living unassisted. As care costs rise and the aging population grows, German manufacturer Kuka may be in the process of developing a solution.
Originally devoted to creating technology for factories, Kuka—one of the world’s most successful manufacturers of industrial robots, is shifting its efforts and aiming to automate the home next. Company representatives say that Kuka now seeks to expand their work into the field of consumer robotics and create automatons that assist humans. The ultimate goal is to create small “companion robots” that can carry out tasks such as opening doors, loading a dishwasher, or helping people out of bed. For seniors living on their own, this type of technology could be a huge step forward.
Home robots can offer seniors a much-needed helping hand. They can be programmed to understand users’ habits and to detect changes in behavior—if an elderly person falls, the automaton will automatically alert caregivers or emergency services. If a person frequently forgets to take their medication, the robot can be programmed to remind them each day. For those who are vision impaired, companion robots can alert them if there is a danger of tripping or slipping. The robots can also aid those with physical disabilities, assisting them with everyday tasks such as getting out of bed, washing their hair, or going up and down steps. For those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other conditions that affect memory and cognitive function, a home robot can provide them with prompts so they remember their daily routine and don’t forget important tasks like doctor’s visits, buying groceries, or paying bills.
Robots can also be a huge help in finding ways for older people to stay active and maintain physical fitness. By encouraging users to get out and about, recommending safe exercises and fitness activities, and even assisting with mobility, these companion robots can help improve the physical health of seniors.
The robots can play an important role in improving seniors’ mental health as well. With increased rates of living alone, seniors can often feel alienated and lonely, making them more susceptible to depression. Scientists hope that home robots will not only provide assistance and companionship to the elderly, but that they will help to break down the emotional barriers that degrade the quality of seniors’ lives. The ultimate goal of these robots, and similar innovations, is to allow people to live independently and for longer. By helping users with tasks like cooking, cleaning, and even dispensing medicines, these robots can play a crucial role in improving the lives of the elderly.
Although it may seem strange or uncomfortably futuristic to some, these companion robots can be a safe and effective way to ensure that the elderly are not neglected. With greater numbers of seniors living by themselves, families that are unable to afford caregivers for their elderly loved ones, and rising costs of senior care and assistance, home robots may be the future of personal aid for the elderly.
Although the designs are still in their early stages and these automated companions may not hit the market for another few years, innovation is in progress to make the robots as functional and helpful as possible, and able to suit all the basic needs of elderly consumers. With prototypes made and clinical trials underway, Kuka hopes to continue their research and create more advanced models, which will soon be demonstrated in conferences, symposiums, and eventually museums and other public spaces.
Everyone needs a bit of a helping hand as they age—what if that helping hand were on a bionic arm? For seniors, companion robots could be the answer to living independently and greatly improving their quality of life.