By Debbie le Quesne

Archive for the ‘loneliness’ Category

Robots with a human touch . . . will it ever catch on?

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You know the care sector’s in trouble when the media is awash with robot stories.

Apparently they are part of the answer to the care crisis. I’m not convinced, given the time frame in which we need a resolve.

But they are being developed “with cultural awareness” and a good bedside manner, academics say.

An international team is working on a £2m project to develop robots to help look after older people in care homes or sheltered accommodation.

They will offer support with everyday tasks, like taking tablets, as well as offering companionship. I get that.

Researchers from Middlesex University and the University of Bedfordshire will assist in building personal social robots, known as Pepper Robots, which can be pre-programmed to suit the person they are helping.

These “culturally sensitive” robots will be developed within three years, I read.

Prof Irena Papadopoulos, expert in trans-cultural nursing, was reported as saying: “As people live longer, health systems are put under increasing pressure.

“In the UK alone, 15,000 people are over 100 years of age and this figure will only increase.

“Assistive, intelligent robots for older people could relieve pressures in hospitals and care homes as well as improving care delivery at home and promoting independent living for the elderly.

“It is not a question of replacing human support but enhancing and complementing existing care.”

Here’s the rub . . . not designed to replace human support.

I don’t doubt they could be of use, but no matter how well they are programmed to be culturally aware, they will never replace the bond that can exist between carers and those for whom they care.

Pepper Robots are already used in thousands of homes in Japan.

So here’s the future: The robots will communicate through speech and with gestures, be able to move independently and pick up signs the elderly person is unwell or in pain.

Can’t really see my old Aunt Hilda asking her robot for a not-too-milky tea, with the tiniest amount of sugar, served in her favourite porcelain tea cup, can you?



Understanding and solving loneliness a play with two scenes

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A pop-up street theatre performance has been turning the focus on what the Guardian has called “the epidemic of loneliness” and the growing isolation of older people.

The Loneliness Street Cabaret, an outdoor street performance from the Beautiful Mess Theatre Company, has been helping to mark the Age UK Lambeth’s Celebrating Age Festival.

The players have performed in different public spaces across the south London borough.

And the central theme is the fact that loneliness is increasing at a time when our cities are becoming ever more crowded.

According to research highlighted by the Campaign to End Loneliness more than half (51%) of all people aged 75 and over live alone, while two-fifths all older people (about 3.9 million) say the television is their main company.

Beautiful Mess creative producer Chloe Osborne was reported as saying: “There was a particular [Guardian] article which initially inspired artistic director Kati Francis to create the work. The article raised the question of how it’s possible to have this rise in loneliness amid an ever-increasing population. In particular we wanted to explore why people can’t – or don’t – connect anymore.”

Development of the performance involved collaborating with older people in Lambeth, community workers and care professionals through Age UK Lambeth.

Research began at a community centre and a local care home, spending time with people and having conversations. This developed this into small group workshops with thoughts about archetypal people who might be isolated; how they behave and the show characters developed from that.

Understanding the problem is vastly important. Giving it a profile is all good. But resolving it will take more than street theatre.

Key to solving loneliness at a primary level is effective social care. Those who are helped to stay in their own homes and interact with their native communities need care that’s affordable and home care providers working in LA contracts need to be rewarded fairly for their work.

Osborne’s themes aim is to provoke people to consider the issues highlighted by the performance and their response to it.

None of us choose to be isolated, but circumstances change with age.

Befriending schemes are all good, along with kindly neighbours, but I believe their needs to be a much more structured approach through social caring.

But to do any proper work it needs government money and ironically community care has been the funding most neglected by local authorities. No rises for ‘domcare’ services I hear. How terribly shortsighted.


Written by debbielq

October 21, 2016 at 12:24 pm