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Should robots take care of our ‘lolos’ and ‘lolas’?

by Jericho Zafra

EVER imagined a world full of robots and aged humans? A few years from now, it will come to life, and no one will notice a robot is now part of the family.

According to a 2020 population research published by The Lancet, it is likely that the world’s population will decrease after the mid-century, which will forecast dramatic adjustments in global demographic and economic dominance.

By 2100, it is predicted that the fertility rates of 183 out of 195 nations will not be high enough to sustain their current populations. The world’s population is expected to peak in 2064 at around 9.7 billion people, then drop to 8.8 billion by the end of the century. In 23 countries, like Japan, Thailand, Italy, and Spain, the population is expected to fall by more than 50%.

Old people, young people

This means by the start of the new century, older people will now outnumber the younger population.  

Because of this, initiatives are now being formulated to address the population gap that will soon affect the elderly. 

In Japan, many elderly persons who reside in nursing facilities or own houses by themselves have feelings of isolation and psychological challenges due to the aging of the population and the trend toward nuclear households.  

This was the reason why RIKEN, the country’s largest comprehensive institution, created Nikola. This robot is capable of mimicking human facial emotions and is looking at applying it in medical settings such as elderly homes.

The primary goal of Nikola is to provide assistance for the elderly, especially those who live alone and need a physical companion.

Enter the Robots

Meanwhile, in the United States, California-based technology firm Labrador Systems said in November that it was starting to roll out its new assistive robots, which will help senior citizens and disabled individuals who need help in their daily lives. The innovation was developed in an effort to combat a burgeoning demographic problem, specifically the rapidly expanding geriatric population in the United States, which is likely to continue to expand. 

“Organizations are already experiencing major caregiver shortages, and in the coming years, there will be significantly more people 85+ with fewer people to help take care of them,” said Mike Dooley, chief executive officer of Labrador systems, in a statement.

However, Dr. Sarah Harper, a professor of gerontology at the University of Oxford and director of the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing, warned of these advancements for the future of elderly individuals.

“Technology can connect, but we must be careful we don’t move into a world where. We have families and caregivers saying: ‘Well, robots can do that. And therefore, we know mum is fine because we’ve got her a robot’,” said Harper to Singapore’s Straits Times.



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