Robots Seen as Filling Caregiver Vacuum for Aging Baby Boomers

Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Cody the robot at work (photo: Georgia Institute of Technology)

With America growing grayer by the year because of the aging Baby Boom generation, the health care industry is in need of more elderly care workers. But due to low wages for such work, an insufficient number of people are vying for these jobs, leaving a vacuum that someone—or something—must fill.


Enter robots. Through the work of various universities, several new types of robots are coming along that could help care for seniors.


There’s Cody, a robotic nurse developed at the Georgia Institute of Technology that’s “gentle enough to bathe elderly patients.”


Then there’s HERB, the Home Exploring Robot Butler, from Carnegie Mellon that can retrieve household needs for patients and even help with the cleaning.


A third robot, Hector, can remind patients to take their medicine, help locate eyeglasses and assist in the event of a fall, according to its developers at the University of Reading in England.


Not everyone is thrilled with the idea of robots caring for the elderly.


Sherry Turkle, a professor of science, technology and society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of the book Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, told The New York Times:


“I felt like this isn’t amazing; this is sad. We have been reduced to spectators of a conversation that has no meaning,” she said. “Giving old people robots to talk to is a dystopian view that is being classified as utopian.”


It is estimated that there will be more than 72 million Americans over the age of 65 by 2030, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, which is nearly twice as many currently.  


Meanwhile, the U.S. will need 70% more home aide jobs in the next seven years, and people are not beating down the door for these positions that pay an average of about $20,000 a year.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Disruptions: Helper Robots Are Steered, Tentatively, to Care for the Aging (by Nick Bilton, New York Times)

Revolutionary Robot Intended To Provide Elderly Care And Peace Of Mind (by Lee Rannals, redOrbit)

Granny and the Robots: Ethical Issues in Robot Care for the Elderly (by Amanda Sharkey and Noel Sharkey, University of Sheffield) (pdf)

In Economic Boom Times, Why Do More Elderly Women Die in Nursing Homes? (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

First Wedding Performed by a Robot (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)         

Humans Help Robots on City Streets (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)        


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