Robots to care for elderly?

Could robots be used to help support the elderly in the UK?

A hospital assistant supports an elderly woman

The elderly should be looked after by robots says a former health minister as the UK battles the Coronavirus pandemic.

Lord Darzi, a health minister from 2007 to 2009, has led a study calling for the implementation of carebots across the NHS.

The robots, which do everything from providing small talk to monitoring heart rates, are widely used across Japan, and Lord Darzi claims they could save the UK government £13 million a year.

According to AgeUK, the UK’s largest charity for older people, there are already 1.5 million elderly people who are not receiving the care and support they need, and support workers have not been receiving fair payment for their long working hours.

It is a sector in crisis, and there are increasing calls to turn to Japan for the answer.

Japan has the oldest population in the world, putting a huge emphasis on caring for the elderly.

In 2000, the country radically transformed their elderly care plan and introduced Long Term Care Insurance.

This provides care for all those over 65 and reduces the burden on families to provide care.

The UK is facing the same issue with many family members acting as unpaid care workers.

For this to change, society needs to work together to support the elderly rather the leaving the burden solely to families. 

Another area where the UK could learn from Japan is with more tailored care.

Japanese people over the age of 65 apply to the government and have an advanced test which helps determine their specific needs.

There is an argument that some over 65’s may not be capable of completing the application process, but the system works well for saving money and providing personal support.

With money a huge problem in the UK care industry, these tests could make a big impact. 

The biggest innovation to come out of the Japanese care system is carebots, and Samsung have recently joined the ‘robot carer’ market.

However, the implementation of carebots is not an easy thing to do.

It means big private companies would play more of a role in the English care system.

There is also a culture difference between Britain and Japan and elderly people may not want to be helped by robots, preferring human connection.

With care workers under such a high workload already, it seems inevitable carebots will be seen in Britain in the next few years.