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Would You Let a Robot Take Care of Your Parents?

Nursing facilities around the world complain of a resource crunch when it comes to hiring more staff, especially in the wake of the pandemic. Robots are helping them to fill the gap.

Malcolm and Mitra make an odd pair to look at, but they’re an example of how elder care in the US and around the world could change after the coronavirus pandemic, which saw carers around the world losing their lives, or leaving the industry. Living in Texas, Malcolm, an older man, sits on a couch facing Mitra, a four-foot-tall robot with a large tablet display on its “head”, with a huge, yellow, smiley emoji face. They chat, and then it’s time for music. Mitra’s face switches to show the notes of “Taps”, and Malcolm pulls out a harmonica to play along.

Malcolm is a resident with Clearday, an elder care provider that works with people suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other cognitive conditions. Richard M. Morris, Executive Vice President and General Counsel at Clearday, explains that Clearday Labs is a project that aims to reinvent care, and design next-generation solutions for improving the lives of the elderly. “We are in the non-acute care space,” Morris explains, “and what we do is increase the exercise and activity of the residents.” The robot is designed to be a part of the spaces that residents inhabit, to interact with them by talking about their lives, and remembering relevant details, but also to engage them in activity. “Mitra is great because not only did it engage with Malcolm and encourage him to do the exercises, but it’s able to track the exercise, the actual performance, to make sure that it’s being done correctly,” Morris says.

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