When the first Star Wars movie was released in May 1977, the thought of having a droid or robot as a companion was still an idea that was far, far away. However, as Star Wars: The Last Jedi opens in theaters today, having a droid, or robot, around the house is now a real thing.
These helpers are being developed for the least likely set of users—the elderly. Just like C3PO, R2D2 and BB8 help their companions, tech companies have developed robots that can assist seniors in their own homes.
For example, Intuition Robotics’ ElliQ, which not only allows grandma and grandpa to communicate with family and friends, it also reminds them when to take medications and go to appointments, suggests and connects them with digital content such as music or audiobooks, and keeping track of activity—like suggesting getting up and going for a walk after sitting too long in front of the TV.
If you’re looking for a more-mobile companion, Blue Frog Robotics’ Buddy may be the ticket. This little robot rolls around the house and not only provides home security, smart home technology, social interaction and multimedia, it can also notify help if it detects a fall or a long period of unusual inactivity.
If that’s still a little too creepy, toymaker Hasbro offers Joy for All pets, which, according to Hasbro, are “designed to bring comfort, companionship and fun to elder loved ones.” Choose an interactive cat or dog with realistic fur, pet-like sounds and sensors that respond to petting and hugs.
There’s also the Med Minder, an automatic medication dispenser/reminder, and Reminder Rosie, a device that you can record messages and reminders on that will broadcast at scheduled times.
The future of older adult care is being fine-tuned at the Georgia Institute of Technology in a 5,000 square-foot living lab called the Aware Home, that has reminders regarding unattended stoves (the number one cause of fires in older adult homes), a hallway with gait-sensing technology that gathers information to track an individual’s health, and more.
All of this technology is designed to keep seniors not only healthy, but also connected and able to live in their own homes independently as long as possible. According to AARP’s Connect2Affect website:
- 17% of adults age 65 and older are isolated
- 26% increased risk of death due to subjective feeling of loneliness
- 51% of people age 75 and older live alone
Surprisingly, seniors are more accepting of these digital caregivers than their human caregiver counterparts. Elizabeth Mynatt, a professor and executive director for the People and Technology at Georgia tech, says “What we hear from older adults is that they value the security and the safety that the technology provides for them. They tell us they would rather have a robot than a human caregiver in some cases, because robots don’t gossip. They don’t go through their things.”
And, at least for the time being, robots don’t judge.
Can you tell if a senior is suffering the effects of isolation? If you feel that a loved one needs help, you may want to consider making an appointment with a professional, such as a therapist or psychologist, licensed by the Board of Behavioral Sciences or the State Board of Psychology.