According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, individuals over the age of 65 will make up nearly a quarter of the population by the year 2040. Throughout our lives the number of older adults will continue to rise, reaching 98 million people over the age of 65 by the year 2060. Age-related changes in vision, presbyopia, and hearing, presbycusis, affect our ability to fulfill life roles, and these changes are universal, regardless of diet and lifestyle effort. Many older people will manage multiple chronic diseases, as more than 90% of people over 65 report at least one chronic condition.
It is evident that organizations that focus on developing new technologies to meet the needs of an aging population will see increasing demand for their products. Here are just a few of the many new technologies that are affecting long term services and supports now and/or are expected to do so in the future:
Japan has many robots that can serve as companions or home assistants for older adults. Paro the robot seal has been shown to calm people with Alzheimer’s disease. Honda’s Asimo autonomous robot can perform mundane tasks such as getting an older person some food or turning lights on and off. Panasonic’s Resyone carebot has gained recognition for being the first robot to meet ISO service robots standards; however, it doesn’t look much like a robot. It is in fact a device that can change shape, turning into a bed, chair and electric wheelchair as needed. Japan’s research institute RIKEN is currently developing a robot called Robobear that can carry a person safely should the need arise. There are even robotic cats for people who can care for themselves but are in need of companionship and friendship.
In the United States, USC’s Human Robot Interaction Laboratory is testing socially assistive robots on older adults for assisted exercise and companionship. At the same time, IBM is working with Rice University in the United States to develop a robot that can be a safe replacement for a human caregiver. MERA, which stands for Multi-Purpose Eldercare Robot Assistant, will have sensors that can detect changes in older adults’ facial expressions, behavior, and environment. It will be able to sense if someone has left the stove on, has fallen and needs assistance or is feeling unwell and in need of medical help. This robot is still in the developmental stages as IBM wants to ensure that each caregiver robot has all the information it needs to properly assist an older adult; however, it is safe to say that these robots could very well be commonplace in the next few decades.
New Uses for Information Technology
Modern technology has dominated many fields; however, caring for older adults is generally a low-tech industry. That may be about to change as companies such as Honor Technology and HomeHero Inc. use information technology to match caregivers with those in need of care. Both companies have created complex algorithms that are regularly updated to make sure that any full- or part-time caregiver is a good match for the person in need of care. Factors taken into account include a caregiver’s schedule, languages spoken, skills and personality. Honor has an Uber-like program for family members and children of older parents who need to call in a short-term caregiver on short notice.
Will Technology Reduce Human Involvement?
Technology isn’t quite far along enough yet to make human involvement in care less necessary – and it may never be. As a growing number of companies use modern technology to make life better for older adults, the human touch will always be needed and those who have the right skills and educational degree have a big role to play in helping older adults lead fulfilling lives.
Source: University of South Carolina: https://gerontology.usc.edu/resources/articles/how-technology-will-impact-aging-now-and-the-near-future/
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