Of life’s experiences the most disappointing is that of aging. Some of us are destined to be stripped of freedom, privacy, independence, intimacy, affection, and meaning. One of the most fascinating uses for robots is in the area of human loneliness. As we age a creeping alienation occurs when spouses die and simple things like a kiss or a hand on the shoulder fade from human experience. Then there is the stark realization of being alone, stripped of home, humanity, and realizing that your final days are simply a wait for death.
I saw it at a retirement home my mother was in for a while. Aged humans parked in hallways, abandoned, forgotten, frightened, and staring blankly into space. There are just not enough caregivers and not enough stimulation to alleviate the anguish of some seniors. They find themselves abandoned in as strange world asking “What have I done, I’ve always done the right thing, why can’t I go home? Where is my husband?”
These are the words of countless seniors who having outgrown “independent living” slip gradually into “assisted living” less capable but nevertheless estranged from their families. Estranged because many families cannot survive the stress of a senior who may have memory problems and gets lost at the mall or may leave the stove on or may grow quarrelsome realizing that their condition is out of their control. The smiling pictures of happy seniors whiling away their senior years in happiness are false pictures to assuage the consciences of relatives no longer able to care for them.
These are respected seniors who built railroads, raised families, given children to war, taught school and at the evening of their life starve for affection, a kiss, meaningful contact and the many things that make a life worth living. They have lost their power to even go for a walk. As a final reward they are warehoused as prisoners condemned to a slow and empty death.
Robots are ideal caregivers for this balkanized and abandoned population. Robots never get tired of being asked the same thing over and over again. They love to play games and lose. They don’t fret if you can’t remember them tomorrow. Robots can provide what is missing in the lives of countless seniors and possibly even my own.
My mother died in home hospice in 2007: not recommended for all. – carlos