Computerized caregiving?

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One news item this week particularly piqued my interest – and apparently yours as well.

A recent study found that a computerized canine from Sony known as AIBO (Artificial Intelligence RoBOt) was as effective as a real dog in helping make nursing home seniors feel less lonely.

Kind of kooky, huh?

Two of our readers thought so. William Greer proposed creating “computerized nursing aides who won't up and quit after just a few months.”

Lil Kirsch concurred and suggested a robot “that can field obnoxious family members' rants.” (Feel free to add your take to the Feb. 28 story. See the comments section at the bottom.)

As humorous as the story of a robotic Rover seems, Japanese electronics companies have taken the idea of “touchy-feely” technology for seniors seriously. Consider Ifbot, a robot that can talk, sing, express emotions and give trivia quizzes. Or Sanyo’s Hopis, a furry pink robot that can monitor blood sugar, blood pressure and body temperature.

Unfortunately, all three have flopped. Apparently the elderly who used them were not very taken with the idea of inanimate caretakers.

While the concept of a computerized companion is novel, perhaps companies should stick to creating those high-tech devices that help older people function better – such as games that improve memory and cognitive skills and products that help the elderly with their medication. Leave the caregiving to qualified nurses and companionship to qualified dogs.

As the world becomes more and more high-tech (Just take a look at the cell phone, BlackBerry and iPod sitting on your desk), it’s kind of comforting to know there are some things that can’t be compressed, simplified, perfected or duplicated. As of yet, there is no substitute for connections – the living, breathing kind.
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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Emily Mongan.

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