Robots Can Extend Aging In Place

The number of adults over  age 85 is set to triple worldwide over the next 40 years. By 2030 the U.S. Census Bureau expects the number of people living with disabilities to grow from 60 million to 75 million. “Many will need physical, emotional, and cognitive assistance,” says the University of Southern California’s (USC) Maja Mataric, PhD, a professor and the senior associate dean for research computer science at the Viterbi School of Engineering. “The age pyramid is becoming a rectangle, with as many old as younger people. This is where technology must step in and help.”

AIP Technology: Toyota Mobina

What does this mean? The timing is right for assistive technologies to enable aging in place according to Athan Bezaitis, MA writing for Aging Well Magazine. “Scientists envision a day when it will be no surprise to find a grandmother living with a household robot like uBot-5, developed at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, which helps her lift things, uses a stethoscope to check her vitals, dials 911, and provides video conferencing to keep her in contact with the outside world. While it costs around $65,000 to construct in the labs, its creators anticipate a $2,000 price tag for mass production. Compare this rate with the cost of human caregivers that can easily exceed $1,000 per week, and the savings become clear.”

A selection of products currently in development and on the drawing board include:

  • NavPrescience: a smart driving assistant *
  • Ishoe: detects balance problems
  • MemExerciser: for people with age-related episodic or mild memory loss
  • Mobina: a wheelchair that can either carry users or act as porter for those who prefer to walk
  • Socially Assistive Robots: designed to act as companions and coaches

Bryan Adams, PhD, principal investigator at I-Bot sees “particular promise in robots that assist with medical compliance and cognitive wellness. He also sees potential for caregivers in a mobile robot that allows users to communicate through video with the outside world.”

Other countries are leading the United States in the development and integration of assistive technologies. Part of it has to do with funding. Governments in Europe, Japan and Korea invest in research and development of robotics for healthcare. U.S. robotic funding is directed to the military.

* Demonstration of NavPrescience


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