Currently there is a problem of an ageing population, especially in the United States and Japan. In the United States, the percentage of people above the age of 65, are at 13%, and that is set to nearly double by the year 2050 (Pew Research Centre). Life expectancy rates are also increasing, which means that people are more likely to live to an older age, and that age is also rising. However USA is trumped by Japan in terms of the country with the oldest population, with 20% of the population over 65 years of age. Japan currently faces a problem, as the amount of carers has stagnated, and the population is still climbing. Merrill Lynch published a report that projected a 1 million shortfall of carers by the year 2025.
In order to combat this issue, Japanese technology firms are attempting to develop robots in order to take care of the ageing population. These robots are specifically designed to assist elderly people, and Japan is investing 1/3 of its budget to developing these “carebots”, but the investment is worthwhile as Merrill Lynch report stated that the global personal robot market could reach $17.4 billion by 2020. Panasonic Resyone was the first robot that met standard services; also known as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) ISO 13482, which allows for “close human-robot interactions so that there will be protection against litigation in the event of an accident occurring”. This was done to combat the ethical issues that are faced by robots helping old people. Are robots advanced enough to support an elderly person emotionally, will there subconscious allow them to make decisions that are not calculated by algorithms? Robobear is a humanoid robot that could eliminate the need for multiple carers, by helping transfer elders from the bed to a wheelchair. Other robot prototypes such as the nursing robot from RIKEN, is capable of lifting people. Hondo have created the ASIMO, which is a humanoid robot that can help the elderly by getting them food or turning off lights.
Robots will certainly help solve the need for carers, but the time frame it will take to bridge the gap is the biggest concern, Merrill Lynch estimate the sales of robots to increase substantially over the next 20 years. In the UK, the NHS is under strain with the ageing population, and the need of robots is rising, without an alternative, the NHS will further strain and problems will pile up.