Have you ever priced the cost for care in a nursing or care home? You may be surprised to learn that in some parts of the country it can cost as much as $6,000 a month for an average rated facility. However, until now, there have been few options for us or our loved ones when home care was no longer a realistic option.
What has changed to make it safer for our older senior citizens to stay in their homes? The answer comes in the form of a tablet-enhanced robot that audibly answers questions, provides reminders, and allows remote access via video conferencing with a host of concerned parties and the elderly program participant.
This concept is not new and has, in fact, been tossed around for the past decade as engineers strived to develop robots that would become part of our daily lives. So, while we have been slower to include them into our homes, businesses and medical practices have accepted robotics as a daily part of life. In fact, robots are now equipped to perform a multitude of tasks from assembling automobiles to performing delicate surgery.
This has encouraged developers to invent a robot that had personality and could assist an elderly member of our society so that they can choose to stay in their own homes rather than being institutionalized. This child-sized robot, equipped with artificial intelligence, even has a name. Let me introduce you to Hector, since he may soon be coming to a grandparent’s home near you.
What is Hector and What Makes This Robot Different?
Hector is designed to assist elderly seniors who live alone or who may not be fully able to care for themselves. This means that he is individually programmed to provide the level of assistance needed by a particular senior. Hector can be programmed to perform tasks such as:
- reminding a person when to take their medications.
- monitoring dangerous situations like using the stove.
- reporting when the senior leaves their home’s boundaries.
- reminding a user how to use the TV remote.
- setting up a video conference between the senior citizen and members of their family.
- setting up a video conference call to include the senior, their doctor and / or a family member who needs to be aware of the senior’s medical condition.
- monitoring the senior so that he can summon help if a senior falls, determining how serious the fall is, and then placing a call for emergency assistance.
- detecting fire and alerting 911.
- security monitoring
Hector is novel in that he reacts with human instincts and is known as a telecommunication device that allows seniors and people with disabilities to take care of themselves. This means that, even if you live with the person in need of care, you are free to be at work or to go to the grocery store without worrying about your loved one. It also means that you are not forced to commit yourself or your loved one to an inferior facility due to your inability to pay.
Another advantage of Hector is that the senior can retain their self-esteem by remaining in their own home and thereby maintaining their ability to socialize and communicate easily with others. As my parents are in their mid-eighties with some serious health issues, I can also see where video conferencing with one’s loved ones can provide a quality of life that otherwise may not have been possible.
As you can see, I think that the developers are on the right track with Hector, and I also think that as robots like him take hold, the robot will one day soon become a commercially viable product for mass marketing. I should also note that Hector and other devices are currently being tested in the homes of real world grandmothers and grandfathers, and that they are being tweaked to enhance the living experiences of these test participants.
Yes, in the beginning, Hector will be costly. It’s estimated, however, that the expense will be nowhere as high as robotic assistant devices have been in the past. In fact, if you consider that the average American may pay $4,000 a month in urban areas for specialty care, Hector would more than pay for itself in a short period of time.
How can Hector be made affordable? It comes down to numbers. With an estimated 60 million American baby boomers soon hitting retirement age, these units could be in high demand. If that happens and production increases, rival companies are certain to take up the challenge and we have seen how this, in turn, causes prices to fall, making product costs more reasonable. When this happens, I can see that something like Hector will play an important part in the lives of seniors. If my prediction holds true, one can envision a day when Hector, or one of his clones, will be in senior households around the globe enhancing the lifestyles of future seniors as well as those who are disabled. I hope it is available before one of my kids decides I’m too old and feeble to care for myself. How about you?