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Planning Retirement Online

LaterLife TechnoFile

Modern technology has so much scope and power to dramatically improve our lives. However it also changes at an incredibly fast rate, and keeping abreast of what's out there, and how it can help you, is a full time job!

So to accompany the 150+ articles in Jackie Sherman's YoucandoIT Question & Answer series we are introducing a new article series: The LaterLife TechnoFile

Technofile will help you to understand some of the bewildering array of technology available today, and possibly help to keep up with your grandchildren!

Can technology ever replace people in the care industry?


The care industry is constantly under scrutiny, and as an industry that carries such a great responsibility, no wonder.

Whether you receive care yourself or have older parents and family members who do, you may find the recent adoption of technology in this usually people dependent sector of interest.

Find out readers thoughts on this topic at the end of the article or by clicking here.

Robo-Butlers, Artificial Companions & Remote Monitoring

One of the biggest challenges the care sector faces, besides funding, is communication and interaction. The immediacy of an available carer can make a big difference to an individual, especially when they simply want someone to talk to.

The DTI (Danish Technological Institute) have developed small robotic vacuum cleaners that aim to free up time carers would usually spend hoovering. By lightening a carer's workload DTI hope that patients will receive a better care service, as they are given more time. It has been introduced in Denmark with mixed success, however with the right support financially and with the correct implementation, this could offer the simplest solution whilst keeping human interaction the focus as opposed to robots.

Combining social interaction and helping with accessibility issues as well as monitoring vitals is the emerging technology of 'telepresence'. GiraffPlus and Care-O-bot exemplify this and provide different kinds of service.

GiraffPlus - Terese Andersson

Funded by the European Union, GiraffPlus ‘combines social interaction and long-term monitoring to help people live independently.’ Giraff uses an interface similar to Skype to meet social and practical needs. It also features built in tools to dial a family member, carer or doctor. As a result, older people do not have to feel so alone and can get support whilst staying out of a care home, which may not be attractive to everyone.


Care-O-bot, a German creation, is a similar aid to Giraff however it also comes with a three-finger hand, making its options a lot more varied. Team this ‘hand’ with a tracking system the Care-O-bot can fetch you a drink and put it down on the side table next to you. Marketed as an interactive butler this domestic helper reduces the need for a Carer and again emphasises independent living.

Quite apart from the 'robo-butler-esque' approach of GiraffPlus and Care-O-Bot, Paro is a therapeutic robot and initial adorable step towards artificial companions.

Instead of gaining social interaction from people Paro aims to stimulate and improve socialisation through interaction with a cartoon like baby seal.

Paro is not a perfect substitute to owning an animal, but it offers comfort almost similar to that of a pet, as it responds to greetings and demonstrates emotions, without the practical issues having a pet in older age can bring. It has a calming effect on patients, offering companionship and fun which can sometimes be hard to find.

Whilst speaking to the Guardian about Dementia patients in particular, Gail Mountain, professor of health service research at the University of Sheffield said,

'My perspective is that anything that makes people feel comforted and more at ease with the world is worth it when people are in the later stages of dementia.'

Already being adopted by the NHS, this technology demonstrates how the UK is changing its approach to technology in the care sector.

Another solution supporting independent living that has come out of the research and development stage is Telecare from Centra Pulse.

Worn around the wrist or neck, it can be accompanied with a fall detector sensor or a GPS watch so family members and doctors can always be confident they will be able to react quickly should anything happen to a relative. What’s more Telecare can offer wider support with monitors which can raise the alarm for other issues like carbon monoxide and if you’ve forgotten to close the outside door. Find out more via their website or give them a call on 0300 123 3232.

With more research and money going into finding a better way to care for an ageing population, there are real hopes that changes can be implemented using technology to dramatically improve the experience of care for older people.

However this is only possible if those being cared for remain at the heart of the development stage. Chrissi Leech, a Support Worker in Hampshire believes her role for patients is

‘ give a quality of care to empower them for their own lives and it is important they have the best quality of life they can. I will be interested to see how robotics will change this.’
Despite this interest, she has expressed her own concerns:
‘robots don't have empathy and and it's not all about the physical stuff we do, it’s the emotional side as well and robots don't have that at all.’

Want to do your bit in the local community? Why not visit the Casserole Club's website.

One day in the future we all might be cared for by our robo-butlers and artificial pets but for now people remain at the heart of making sure that older people receive the care they need, as well as the respect and dignity they deserve.

The Casserole Club is a project that connects people who like to cook and are happy to share an extra portion of a delicious home cooked meal, with older neighbours living close by who could really benefit from a hot cooked meal'. Why not sign up today if you would like to participate; either through cooking or receiving meals! It’s a great example of the Internet being tailored for a really simple but effective care solution.

Can technology ever replace people in the care industry?

The Results are in:



"But not completely."

"To a certain degree. It would mean that those in care would definitely receive their medicine and food so that part of neglect would be removed. However nothing could replace the human contact."

"Why not? At least a robot cannot steal or knowingly ill-treat anyone."


"Caring, compassion, empathy, touch, companionship, are human attributes that cannot be replaced by machines."

"The cared for also need hugs, smiles and a chat!"

"Never. It is a terrible idea. We humans have a kindness and an energy that it would be impossible to replace."

"We all need actual human contact."

"Technology can't replace human contact 100% but it can provide very valuable help."

Previous Articles:

Planning Your Holiday - Online
Techno Phone not Technophobe
Bio-Printing: What it is and what does it mean?
7 of the Best Free Healthcare Related Apps

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