The growing proportion of elderly in society, together with recent advances in robotics, make robots in eldercare increasingly likely. The author looks critically at how a robot and the elderly could develop a reciprocal relationship of caregiving and care-receiving. This is done by understanding the existing robotics space and gaining insight into its social, cultural, political, and ethical implications.
The project's seeds lie in realising that even the elderly want to be self-reliant and retain their agency. The project doesn't negate that they need care, but it highlights that mechanisms to make care a reciprocal process are required. Often, care towards the elderly infantilizes them, leading to a loss of dignity in the elderly. They suffer from psychological and physiological pain as soon as they shift toward becoming dependent.
Sambo is a care robot that follows the elderly when they walk, shape-shifts to provide support, and inflates an airbag if the elderly are about to fall to minimise their injuries. Most importantly, Sambo converses with the elderly, plays games, and provides psychological support. Sambo is not just a caregiver but enjoys care in return and demands the same from the elderly. Sambo helps build a reciprocal relationship between the elderly and the robot, uplifting the elderly's self-reliance.
Care robot, Companion robot, Elderly care, Fall protection, Robot ethics