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Let’s talk about robots - ready to help seniors?

I have to admit it, but iRobot’s Roomba is just the coolest thing to watch. I love how it circles around the same location over and over, how it plays a tune “Charge!” as it heads for its charging unit, and how clean it gets the areas it tackles. Fun for me — and my geek husband — who figured out where to place the sensors so it wouldn’t crash into my grand piano. And particularly appealing to have it run around under our bed, where we never push a vacuum cleaner. And from reading the reviews, it is endlessly interesting to cats and dogs. But for an elderly or disabled person who can’t fish it out of the locations in which it gets stuck? Or watch it smashing it’s circular self into right-angled corners, again and again? Or prepare the rug so it won’t strangle itself on the fringe? I don’t think so. And truth-in-advertising, iRobot doesn’t make that much of an aging-in-place fuss about it. New releases are getting smarter (about rugs and stairs, for example). I’d like to see more scenarios in which a frail and elderly person found it indespensable. I don’t think so.


There is lots of interest and even ratings of robots for accomplishing household chores.  And as these products are refined and become more and more useful, they will be integral to helping the frail elderly stay in their homes -- those who cannot do chores like vacuuming or other household chores.

However, just as compelling, think about this study that showed the benefit of actually doing the chores. Take a look at this Institute for the Future analysis of a 2006 JAMA study: "Just doing household chores and other mundane activities of daily living is enough to help older adults live longer, new research suggests.

Elderly couch potatoes were much more likely to die within about six years than those whose lives included regular activity no more strenuous than washing dishes, vacuuming, gardening and climbing stairs, according to a study of adults age 72 to 80.

About 12 percent of people with the highest amount of daily activity died during the six-year follow-up, compared with nearly 25 percent of the least active participants."


The Giraffe -- another robot -- possibly useful for the elderly.


I spoke at length with Stephen, CEO of Giraff Technologies about the awesome potential of using their Giraff robot in home health care to monitor medication compliance - among other things.

Here's a newer video of it being used in that setting:

I would love to take one for a test drive, but he says it's only being tested and marketed in Sweden and Europe, because the US health care system is too fragmented and difficult to work with. What a shame! Hopefully that will change one day soon.

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