Baby Boomers: Would You Trust Your Care To A Robot?

As baby boomers age, who will take care of them? 

That's the question on the minds of public health and policy experts, since the numbers don't add up: an estimated 117 million Americans are expected to need assistance by 2020, and it's predicted that the number of available caregivers will be around 50 million—well shy of what's needed.

Hence, the creation of "The Living Lab," a Case Western Reserve University laboratory that opened recently at Ohio Living Breckenridge Village, a residential community for older adults. The goal of this lab is to test out new technologies that could help improve quality of life for aging adults. 

One of the most engaging projects in development is Woody,  a plywood-based social robot. CWRU researcher Kiju Lee and her team are tinkering with Woody to make him into a companion for older adults, someone who could also potentially help out with medication reminders or other things like that. While other groups around the world are fast at work on social robots as well, Lee's aim is make a robot who is not only friendly but also affordable ($500 is the target price). 

Other projects at the lab include an augmented walker that would allow people to walk up stairs and avoid pricey home modifications, and shoe inserts that give doctors valuable intel about a patient's stability issues. There's also a robotic knee brace that could help people who've lost movement on one side of their body, like after a stroke. Researchers hope this lab, and the willing participants at Breckenridge Village, will help them come up with smarter, more human-centric solutions for the challenges of aging. 

 

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