Professor: Robots Are the Future of Elder Care

Many older people need someone who is always there to help them with their everyday tasks, to listen to their stories, and to help them live independently — in other words, a robot caregiver, writes an associate professor of geriatrics in Sunday’s New York Times.

“That may sound like an oxymoron,” writes the University of California’s Louise Aronson in her opinion piece. “In an ideal world, it would be: Each of us would have at least one kind and fully capable human caregiver to meet our physical and emotional needs as we age. But most of us do not live in an ideal world, and a reliable robot may be better than an unreliable or abusive person, or than no one at all.”

Aronson, the author of collection of stories, “A History of the Present Illness,” tells of an elderly patient she sees, and notes that while she can write her prescriptions, she can’t offer her help for the loneliness and disability that fill her days.

“Like most older adults, she doesn’t want to be ‘locked up in one of those homes,’ ” writes Aronson. “What she needs is someone who is always there, who can help with everyday tasks, who will listen and smile.”

Caregiving is low-paid work that is “women’s work and immigrants’ work,” she said, and often it’s work that many people won’t or can’t do. But robot caregivers could change the quality of life for many elderly or disabled patients, Aronson writes.