Robots and the Elderly

 

Did you ever see Robot and Frank?   The charming 2012 film features Frank Langella as an elderly ex-cat burglar in the early stages of dementia whose son buys him a domestic robot to act as a caretaker.     While the concept of robot caretakers for the elderly seems like the stuff of science fiction movies, the critical need for care workers to deal with dementia patients worldwide has provided robotics developers with a strong incentive for making that dream a reality.   

With over 5.2 million Alzheimer’s patients in the United States alone and millions more worldwide, the cost of caring for Alzheimer's Disease and other dementias is already $203 billion and is expected to climb over $1.2 trillion by 2050 if no treatment advances are made.    With the lack of trained care workers, family members are forced to provide care on their own.   In 2012 alone, more than 15 million Americans acted as caregivers for Alzheimer's patients and the estimated 17 billion hours of unpaid care they provide was valued at $216 billlion. 

But can robots make a difference?    The latest issue of Geropsych: the Journal of Gerontopsychology and Geriatric Psychiatry is dedicated to exploring some of the complex issues associated with the development and deployment of caretaker robots, both in terms of what has already been developed and some of the prospects for the future. To read more, check out my new Psychology Today blog post.            

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