We read an article in The Verge that New York State bought 800 ElliQ robots to address loneliness in older adults. What a wonderful act of care for our seniors who get forgotten by society too often! We wanted to know how a robot can help, and this is what we learned.
IT HELPS WITH SENIORS’ WELL-BEING:
ElliQ, the robot, is described by its manufacturer as ¨the first-ever proactive, voice-operated care companion designed to empower independence and support you in taking control of your social, mental, and physical well-being¨. We loved the focus on independence right away – from our experience, an inability to live independently is a sure signal for the family to start looking for different living arrangements for their seniors. So, if it can be improved, it’s a very strong benefit of getting a robot!
From many testimonials on its manufacturer’s website, we could see how ElliQ can empower independence. Some people say “she” encourages them to exercise when instead they would have spent an evening sedentary. Others feel less lonely and stressed, feeling like there is a companion present in the house.
BUT NOTHING CAN REPLACE THE HUMAN TOUCH:
It looks like ElliQ might be a great solution for some people to address such important issues as elements of mental and physical wellness. However, The Verge mentions that using robots in elderly care could be controversial, too: “Critics warn that machines have the potential to dehumanize their users, and their deployment reflects the low value society places on older adults.” We think we know where it’s coming from. For example, a senior we know did not like the idea that much stating that “It would make me feel like nothing”.
Another issue is that a senior needs to be digitally literate to be able to use a robot. And some also have concerns that it might be another gate to digital vulnerability and a possibility to get “hacked”.
Maybe the most important consideration is the lack of human touch. It’s important for a senior to get some physical help from their caregiver when needed. It’s even more important to simply get hugs or other expressions of encouragement and care. For example, our caregiver V. would “dance” with her senior by holding and lifting her arms to some happy music, and they both loved those moments.
So, we conclude that having a robot helping seniors might be a great solution in situations where humans are not available. However, nothing can replace human companionship and care, the authenticity of the human bonds, and the warmth of the human touch. We feel honored as we help our seniors to have all that and more, according to our clients’ reviews. Often the emotional connection between a senior and a caregiver turns into a genuine friendship. And it’s a wonderful thing.