Given recent news, awards shows at future long-term care conventions might get a new twist.
“And now please join hands for our Frontline Caregiver of the Year: Arti3000, a tireless, goal-oriented robot from Sunset Path Senior Living in Doomsville, Illinois.” It’ll be hard to tell from the announcer’s voice if she’s scared or excited, which may just mean she’s a robot too.
I’m no Nostradamus, but the root of my prediction is the recent report that tabletop robots designed for the elderly are being tested in New York State’s elderly care communities. The device is similar to Amazon’s Alexa and touts the ability to “empathize with humans and respond to voice and body movement”. It’s all I’ve ever asked of a partner, so if the experiment is successful, I’d like to put my name on the waiting list.
The pandemic and resulting staff shortage has led to an explosion of similar technologies in long-term care facilities, including Temi personal robots presented by a Massachusetts senior living company to communities in five states. Together, they look like a street gang of upright vacuums to me with glowing tablet computer faces, and I’d be nervous to run into one in the supply room late at night. But they’re seemingly harmless, gliding safely through hallways interacting with residents, facilitating video chats with family and doctors, and performing a range of other tasks.
Meanwhile, in a Chicago-area continuing care retirement community, a food runner robot serves tables and delivers meals, to the delight of seniors, and in California, 200 robotic cats and dogs were distributed to residents of assisted living facilities. It should be noted that none of these reports include anxious protests from locals concerned that the machines are controlled by Bill Gates, or run amok and attack them in their sleep. They seem more accepting of this new world than me, and even like having robots around.
So, could residents of long-term care facilities even come to prefer them to real humans? It is certainly possible. Because when I compare the strengths and weaknesses of robots to my own, for example, I stand less well on my feet. Energy and efficiency? Victory goes to the robots. Reliability? Robots. Loyalty and honesty? Definitely robots. Express feelings and emotions? I was repeatedly told that a robot would be much better.
In practical situations, they have certain weaknesses. The robots that run the facility’s yoga classes sometimes fall over and need to be retrieved. But in all honesty, the same thing happens to me every time I try tree pose. Bot OSes crash sometimes, but most afternoons so do I. What I mean is that in a head-to-head analysis of traits a resident might enjoy, robots might beat people, or at least me, most of the time. .
On an even deeper and more basic level, I guess the surprisingly enthusiastic and rapid adoption of robots by older people shouldn’t be so surprising. With all the incivility these days in some circles, many of us might prefer a polite robot to a typical human.
things i think about is written by Gary Tetz, two-time national silver medalist and three-time regional gold and silver medalist in the Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) Awards Program, as well as winner of the APEX Awards Excellence. Since the turn of the last century, it has entertained, inspired, informed and sometimes confused long-term care readers around the world. He is a writer and video producer for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.
The opinions expressed in McKnight Long Term Care News guest submissions are those of the author and not necessarily those of McKnight Long Term Care News or its editors.