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Technology And Aging – Society’s Savior Or Demon?

Technology And Aging – Society’s Savior Or Demon?

By Susan Williams

If you haven’t been living under a rock you surely realize that our population is aging.

As baby boomers begin to cross over from middle age to older age and with increasing levels of longevity, this aging wave is starting to build.

As reported by the United Nations, the aging population of the world is about to explode;

“…the number of older persons — those aged 60 years or over — is expected to more than double by 2050 and to more than triple by 2100, rising from 962 million globally in 2017 to 2.1 billion in 2050 and 3.1 billion in 2100.”

And with this growth will come a significant increase for support and care.

As Forbes shared; “...home care as one of the nation’s fastest growing occupations, with an additional million workers needed by 2026; that’s an increase of 50% from 2014.”

Also Read: Are We Headed For A Workforce Crisis In Elder Care?

This is where technology is starting to step in.

Recognizing this growing demand for caregiver support, there is a field of service and companion robots starting to emerge.

For example, there is ElliQ – a technology solution that is being marketed as an aging companion. The technology interacts with the person to remind them of appointments, taking their medications along with allowing family members to keep track of certain activities. The following clip outlines some of the services of this technology. Be warned, the video is a bit hokey and I really disliked the fact that the technology sort of “bullied” Mary into playing bridge but it does showcase what the technology has been designed to do.

But what is an even more interesting development, rather than strictly having a digital appearance, more companion robots are taking on designs that reflect other more realistic life forms.

As we shared before, there was a baby seal companion robot named PARO. PARO was designed to simulate the pet therapy experience and has the ability to respond to human interaction. The designers claim that it can reduce stress and improve relaxation and motivation as just a few of the benefits.

And now there is now a new companion robot on the scene – Tombot.

According to an article published in Fast Company, this particular robot commanded a great deal of attention at a conference that was showcasing new technologies to support aging. As the only booth that had a lineup, supposedly people were heard saying “Isn’t this just the cutest?” or “That’s just incredible.”.

Here’s a video clip that shares and explains what this robotic companion can do.

I have to admit, this robot is definitely adorable and I could see how it may help support someone who may be in need of some companionship.

But here is my major concern with all of these options.

I have always believed that technology can be a great support – and I emphasize the word support. It’s when it becomes the solution and given a higher priority then a human connection then I get significantly concerned.

Similar to a child bonding with a favourite teddy bear or blanket, there still needs to be a parent that is watching over them, caring for them, loving them.

And as for these technologies, they are just that – technology. They are not real. They are not living beings capable of actually loving someone. As we make them more “life like“, we need to continually remind ourselves of this.

I believe that as long as these technologies are positioned to support a caring, human relationship that is in place we should be fine. But if it crosses over and takes top priority over human interaction, we have then moved technology into a position of power over humans.

And that is a world I hope I never experience.

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Susan Williams is the Founder of Booming Encore. Being a Boomer herself, Susan loves to discover and share ways to live life to the fullest. She shares her experiences, observations and opinions on living life after 50 and tries to embrace Booming Encore's philosophy of making sure every day matters.