The future of independent living
With seniors wanting to remain as independent for as long as possible, there are a number of products coming onboard that can help do just that, including a robot.
BY: Joseph Barratt
A robot designed to help seniors maintain high-quality of life was revealed in Singapore at the 50plus Expo in March by New Zealand company, Uniservices. The iRobiQ (left), which is a result of a collaboration with South Korean companies Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute, Yujin Robot Co, ED Corp and Isan Solutions, has been designed to assist elderly and to extend their independence for as long as possible.
At a handy size, the robot weighs just 7kg making it the ideal size for both sitting on a bench top or moving around on the floor.
Tricks up its sleeve
The iRobiQ has many tricks up its sleeve – it monitors any vital signs that it has been programmed to watch including heart rate and bloody pressure. It provides medicine reminders, automatically transfers test data to clinicians and caregivers, monitors for falls, moves around the room, and even has voice recognition and talks back. It also includes an entertainment system that has a library of music videos which it will dance to. The battery-powered robot will return to its docking station to recharge automatically.
In times of emergencies, it is capable of sending off text messages to the holder of a nominated phone indicating a problem. This could be for anything from incorrect medication data through to abnormal vital sign measurement. The iRobiQ will also ask questions including about medication side effects – as pre-loaded by the doctor – and the information is collated for weekly summaries, along with test results, for the doctor or nurses to analyse.
With Singapore having one of the fastest ageing populations in the world, with over-65-year-olds projected to represent 23 percent of the country’s population by 2030 – the second highest percentage in Asia, the question across the developed world remains – how do we care for this population and ensure the highest possible quality of life? Uniservices feels its robot can do just that.
Allowing for independent living
“The robot has been designed with the idea of extending independent living,” said Kelvin Keh, Uniservices’ business manager.
He explained the robot will take the tests, ask questions preloaded by a doctor, and remind about taking medication and then electronically sending the results to family and/or healthcare professionals for monitoring. This reduces the need for constant in-house care by professionals or family, explained Keh.
He said during testing in New Zealand’s ‘rest homes’, seniors grew attached to their robots and even named them as they became companions. One surprising result is that as they grew so attached to the robots they were more likely to listen to advice such as taking their medicines.
You can’t ignore companionship either, said Keh, the reality is the entertainment system, and the talking plays a big role. Uniservices is in Singapore to look at partnerships to introduce the technology through the country’s healthcare systems. He said: “We came to Singapore because it has a good healthcare system and they are not afraid of technology.”
The iRobiQ has recently completed trials in New Zealand and Univervices is looking for partners across Asia to help build the backend support required to maximise data collation and to tailor the services the iRobiQ can offer. With strong interest shown abroad it may not be long before our senior community can buy their very own robot for around the house.
This comes at a time when there has been a steep rise in the number of healthcare robots in recent years, including the GeckoSystems (US), Kompai (France), Care-O-bot (Germany), Companionable (Europe), Panasonic Hospi-Rimo (Japan), and the Fatronik-Tecnalia’s (Spain) robot, which all offer different services and come in larger sizes.