Robot Caregivers for the Elderly

Mickey Rooney

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.

Separate rooms, separate beds

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


About carlos

I'm a curious person, of reasonable intellect, "on the beach" (retired) and enjoying my interest in anthropology, language, civil rights, and a few other areas. I've been a hippie/student/aerospace tech writer in the '60s, a witness to the Portuguese revolution in the ‘70s, a defense test engineer and witness to the Guatemalan genocide in the '80s, and a network engineer for an ISP in the '90s. Now I’m a student and commentator until my time is up. I've spent time under the spell of the Mesoamerican pyramids and the sweet sound of the Portuguese language. I've lived in Europe, traveled in Brazil, Central America, Iceland, New Zealand, and other places. My preferred mode of travel is with a backpack and I eat (almost) anything local. Somehow, many of the countries I have been to have had civil unrest (for which I was not responsible). I'm open to correspond with anyone who might share my liberal, humanist interests. I live in San Buenaventura, California.
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2 Responses to Robot Caregivers for the Elderly

  1. I liked this post very much. But…
    Do you really believe that a robot is able to care people in their old age..
    No, this is not the question. The question is: Do you really believe that people will be prepaired to receive care from robots? It is awfull imagine that this can happens with old people within a short time coming.
    This is really one of the great problems in modern society. Both my father and mother died after being for some days at a hospital. All the time they had the family around them. Until the moment they entered the hospital they lived in a house of their own and had the company of an old maid. We (their children) were saved from the anguish to take them to a home for old people.
    By now my robot is the computer. As I live alone in my appartment, it has prooved to be a good (mate?) companion. The caresses I receive from Natalina, my cat. By now…

    • carlos says:

      Some people have a cat or a dog. Some people have a computer to stay in touch. What would you say if I told you I was a computer? How would you really know. I might have been programmed to be sympathetic, to agree with your deeper emotions while disagreeing with minor things. there is a thing called the Turing test Wher a computer cannot be differentiated from a real person. It might even misspell a word here and there or use other tricks.
      I think people


      fall in love with a properly programmed computer. When you are very lonely it is easy because you want to be in love. It’s hard to pass a Turing test because there are ways to fool a computer. If you were to tell me that
      Vargas LLosa was an important Argentinian writer I might agree. Of course, Vargas Llosa is Peruvian but you would expect me to know this considering our past conversations.
      An old person needs companionship. A kitten or an empathic robot wouldn’t matter because we all overlook imperfections in those we love. Has a man ever lied to you and you believed him? Perhaps not. People seek connection and if the connection is imperfect but satisfying, the imperfection is overlooked because we want the rising high of feeling someone cares about us. Being important to someone is important, especially to someone confined to a wheelchair who may be in early alzheimer’s. Are you loved, Clara? – carlos

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