By Steve Moran

We know for sure . . .

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has very rapidly advanced the mainstreaming of telemedicine in senior living 
  • Because of the pandemic, we are paying a lot more attention to environmental cleanliness in senior living communities and this is sure to stick

While it is too early to tell for sure, it seems highly probable that it will accelerate the use of robots in senior living. Or more precisely robotics. It was a topic that received some attention during recent technology NIC Huddles that are free to access for anyone.

Already Here

They are already here, in a “first light of dawn” way. Robotic cats, emotional seals, and Temi offered by Connected Living (a Foresight partner). There are also robots being used in some hotels and rumored to be used in one or two senior communities to deliver things from the front desk to resident rooms. They are cool and make senior living a little better, but not yet game-changers.

Game-Changer

Robots become game-changers when they can replace a human doing tedious tasks that really no one gets much joy out of. Cleaning bathrooms, sanitizing surfaces, and perhaps, though it sounds pretty creepy, providing human companionship.

In Dan Brown’s 2017 novel Origin, we meet Winston (named after Winston Churchill), an artificial intelligence being that seems to think and talk like a human, including expressing emotions. Even though in reality Winston only exists in a big box supercomputer.

Humanoids 

A Reuters article titled “Makers of Sophia the robot plan mass rollout amid pandemic” caught my eye and this lead caught my attention:

“Social robots like me can take care of the sick or elderly,” Sophia says as she conducts a tour of her lab in Hong Kong. “I can help communicate, give therapy, and provide social stimulation, even in difficult situations.”

In My Lifetime

I believe that in my lifetime we will see widespread deployment of robots and robotics in senior living communities. These robots will provide some simplistic human-like tasks (in some sense ATM’s that we cannot live without were very early robots that replaced humans). And they will do it better than humans.

I believe we will see robots that will replace humans who are doing drudge work. Floor cleaning, window washing, bathroom cleaning. It seems like it is only a matter of time until there is a robot or maybe more than one that cleans a resident’s room.

The resident will leave for 30 minutes and the robot will come in and change the sheets, clean all the surfaces (including the floor and all those hard-to-reach places), scrub the bathroom, and then make sure there are fresh supplies.

When they leave the room it will be 100% right each and every time. They never will forget to clean those high or low hard-to-reach places. They will never forget to make sure there is enough toilet paper.

They will be expensive but ultimately less expensive than people. While they will need maintenance, they will never sue, need overtime, or engage in drama or power struggles.

Resident Acceptance

I believe that most residents will not only accept robots but will embrace them as something new and novel. Your oldest residents took their first automobile rides in what we now call antique cars. They watched air travel become the norm, they watched cassette tapes come and disappear. They watched as the fax machine was the most amazing thing in the world and then went obsolete.

Today’s residents remember the first time a human being was launched into space, circled the globe for the first time, and landed on the moon.

I think they will be a huge selling point. And they will not spread COVID-19. The question is this: Are you ready for them?

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