Robotic Devices for Seniors

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Robotic Devices for Seniors

Some nursing home residents in Japan are enjoying a different type of animal therapy. The animals look as if they are real, but they are actually advanced interactive robots.

PARO, for instance, looks like a real baby harp seal. When a resident strokes PARO, the soft, furry robot moves its head and legs and sounds like a real baby harp seal. The “companion bot” senses people, the environment, and the way it is held with help from five sensors that distinguish touch, light, temperature, sound, and posture.

PARO can also learn to behave the way the person prefers. For instance, every time a person strokes PARO, the robot will remember the action and try to repeat the action that led to being stroked. The therapeutic robot, developed by the Tokyo-based National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, also increases socialization among older adults.

In addition, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association found that interaction with PARO decreased loneliness among seniors in a residential care facility. The study involved 40 residents who were randomly divided into a group that interacted with PARO for 12 weeks and a group that attended regular activities, which included interaction with the facility’s dog.

Researchers observed residents talking to and touching PARO significantly more than they did the dog. What’s more, the study found that more residents were involved in discussions about the robot than in discussion about the dog.

Japan serves as a testing ground for pioneering technology that provides solutions to problems older adults face, such as mobility and physical conditions. Studies show that using robotic devices in hospitals and long-term care facilities also has social and psychological benefits for older adults.

Japan Expects Increase in Senior Population

One reason companies are developing innovative devices for seniors is due to the fact that Japan has one of the largest aging populations in the world. The country’s National Institute of Population and Social Security Research expects people over 65 years old to make up 30 percent of the population in 2025 and 35.3 percent in 2040.

Japan is also bracing for a nursing staff shortage of 270,000 by 2025, according to the country’s Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry. A study conducted by the ministry found that the shortage will be felt in urban areas where home health care and other forms of nursing are widely used.

With the expected increase in the older population, tech companies have been working to improving the quality of life for seniors with interactive devices like PARO.

Innovative Devices Target Older Adults

Companies, like Panasonic, have opened “robotics hubs” to work on various projects, including developing devices to solve challenges faced by older adults. At its hub in Japan, Panasonic, has developed devices that include:

Walk-training robot

The walk-training robot helps older adults with mobility problems. The device is shaped like a tall handcart, has wheels, and handgrips. A screen displays a walker’s progress and provides feedback that encourages the walker to make corrections to improve the person’s walking.

Developed in collaboration with Nagoya University, Panasonic expects the device to be used in long-term care facilities and hospitals where there is a reluctance to have older adults walk outside on their own because of their potential to fall down.

WHILL NEXT

WHILL NEXT is a self-driving electric wheelchair that moves by using a smartphone app. The device knows its location and can decide the best route for the rider. It also has sensors that can detect nearby objects, including people. Panasonic partnered with WHILL Inc., a company that manufactures personal mobility devices, to develop the smart wheelchair.

Resyone

Panasonic developed Resyone, a robotic bed that transforms into an electric wheelchair. The device also helps caregivers who only have to transfer the person once. According to Panasonic, Resyone reduces the “psychological burden” of falling and getting hurt by about 80 percent.

Cyberdyne is another company making a mark in the world of robotic devices. The company, located in Tsukuba, Japan, created the Hybrid Assistive Limb exoskeleton suit that helps people with lower limb disorders to walk again.

Development of Robotic Devices Continues

Innovative tech devices not only help seniors with their mobility but some help to control health conditions. For instance, Triple W developed DFree, a wearable device for people with urinary incontinence problems. DFree has a built-in sensor that monitors how much urine is in the wearer’s bladder. The device sends alerts to the person’s smartphone or tablet to let the person know when it is time to go to the bathroom.

Triple W, which has offices in Tokyo, Paris and San Diego, first introduced DFree in Japan. The device is now available in other countries, including the United States.

With healthcare costs continuing to increase worldwide, and staff shortages anticipated in the medical industry, tech companies will continue their development of assistive robotic devices. The International Federation of Robotics projects that the global market for robots to assist older adults and people with disabilities is expected to expand substantially over the next 20 years.

Source:

LINK: https://www.strategy-business.com/article/Robotic-seals-and-bionic-limbs-How-Japan-is-creating-opportunity-for-medtech?gko=ec97f
LINK: http://www.parorobots.com/index.asp
LINK: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23545466
LINK: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/09/15/national/elderly-citizens-accounted-record-28-4-japans-population-2018-data-show/#.XnUUoi2ZORt
LINK: https://nursesarena.com/news/japan-could-face-shortage-of-270-000-nursing-staff-by-2025-ministry-warns/
LINK: https://news.panasonic.com/global/stories/2019/69107.html
LINK: https://www.dfreeus.biz/about
LINK: https://ifr.org/downloads/press2018/Executive_Summary_WR_Service_Robots_2018.pdf

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