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Just Ordinary Robots by Rinie van Est, Lamber Royakkers

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91
3
takIng CaRE of
ouR PaREnts
The Role of Domotics and Robots
3.1 Introduction
e use of care robots feeds our fears of future nursing homes without
human sta: we see robots at work at the bedside, eciently and
eectively executing the much-needed physical caring tasks and
ignoring the social and emotional needs of the human being lying
on that bed. Against a background of an aging population, robots
can, however, oer additional “hands-on services” at the bedside. For
robots do not suer from stress, are deployable 24hours a day, and
never forget about providing medication. is image is disliked by a
lot of people, because for them the concept of care rubs up against the
concept of “technology.” Care stands for attention, warmth, kindness,
reciprocity, empathy, and helpfulness. By contrast, technology is
associated with eectiveness, eciency, distance, and impersonality.
However, the trends in long-term care indicate that technological
innovations are necessary to meet the expected demand in health
care. A stang shortage—due to future aging (see Box 3.1)—is often
invoked as an argument for deploying robotics in long-term care. In
particular, the growth of the very oldest group (people over the age of
80) will put pressure on care services and will also result in an increase
in the demand for various services for the elderly: assisting the elderly
or their caregivers in daily tasks, helping to monitor their behavior
and health, and providing companionship (Sharkey & Sharkey, 2012).
As a consequence, there will be a huge demand for care sta. ere
will even be a double-care gap: both a quantitative and a qualitative
one. ere will be a quantitative gap between what is desirable and
possible in terms of money and what is possible in terms of personnel.
92 Just ordinAry robots
Additionally, there will be a gap between the type of care needed and
the type of care that is available: people prefer more and more to live
in their own homes as long as possible instead of being institutional-
ized in sheltered homes or nursing homes when problems related to
aging arise (Broekens, Heerink, & Rosendal, 2009). is also keeps
political circles busy. e European Commission (2012), for example,
foresees rising demand for care, and has opted for innovation in health
care by encouraging investment in labor-saving technologies, such as
robotics. e expectation is that the use of robots will improve the
quality of, access to, and eciency of health care for everyone: more
care will be delivered, the care recipient will exert more inuence over
their own care process, and a lower number of professionals will real-
ize a higher workload than is currently the case. e government in
Japan also wants to address the aging problem with the use of care
robots (Lau, van’t Hof, & van Est, 2009).
e use of robotics in care starts with home automation (domot-
ics). Domotics literally combines the words domestic and robotics,
that is, home robotics or, in other words, home automation technology.
BOX 3.1 AGING
Aging is dened as an increase in the number of persons aged
65years and over compared with the rest of the population.
According to the European Commission (2012), the proportion
of those aged 65years and over is projected to rise from 17% in
2010 to 30% in 2060, with the peak occurring around 2040.
Moreover, it is expected that people will be living longer: life
expectancy at birth is projected to increase from 76.6years in
2010 to 84.6 in 2060 for males and from 82.5 to 89.1 for females.
One out of ten people aged 65years and over will be older than
80. In Japan, the country with the highest proportion of elderly
citizens, the population is also rapidly aging; 23% of the popula-
tion was already older than 65years in 2010, predicted to rise to
31% by 2030,* and in the United States, 13% were over the age
of 65 in 2009, expected to rise to around 19% by 2030.
*
http://pardee.du.edu/.
http://www.aoa.gov/Aging_Statistics/.

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