A recent article in The New York Times explored the news of Japan implementing worker-robots in Tokyo’s Shin-Tomi nursing home. Although this may be surprising to us in the West, the article states that many Japanese citizens already view robots as supportive and friendly, and the nursing home staff members view them as an efficient resource. Roles of these robots vary from carrying on a conversation with older adults who express loneliness to more practical tasks like helping with power, mobility, and monitoring. Robots can be a beneficial substitute for human workers, saving staff time so they can do other tasks.
The reason for the increased robotic investment as the projected shortage of 380,000 eldercare workers by 2025. The Japanese government is funding development of these robots, and may have an eye on other countries predicted to have similar demographic challenges.
According to the article, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) is predicting Japan’s market for eldercare robots will grow to $3.8 billion by 2035. However, the cost is staggering. METI is shoveling out $45 million for development, and the labor ministry is providing $50 million to introduce robots to 5,000 facilities across Japan.
Regardless of the cost to create these robots, and to even own one—both of which are incredibly expensive—the article indicates that older adults and staff members alike are getting a boost of morale and peace of mind from their eldercare robots.
Foster, Malcolm. Ageing Japan: Robots’ Role in Future of Elder Care. https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2018/03/27/technology/27reuters-japan-ageing-robots-widerimage.html. Accessed April 30, 2018.