With one in seven people in the UK now expected to be over 75 years old over the next 20 years , “care robots” could help provide the UK’s dedicated adult social care sector with more assistance for those who need it most.
The government today launched the UK’s biggest research programme entirely dedicated to making autonomous systems safe and trustworthy for public use with investment that could help develop robots to one day fulfil tasks such as helping an elderly person up after a fall and raising the alarm, delivering food to an older person at mealtimes, and even ensuring they take crucial medication at the correct time.
Autonomous systems are currently built across industries to solve challenges, but in order to be used by people they need to be designed to be safe, keep data secure and have a clear set of rules in order for them make effective decisions.
This cutting-edge programme will undertake research into their design, for example ensuring robots are better protected against cyber-attacks and that they demonstrate principles like respect, fairness and equality enabling them to eventually be used in environments like care homes and hospitals.
Science Minister Chris Skidmore said: “A staggering one in seven people in the UK are now expected to be over 75 years old by 2040. As our society ages, most of us will have to care for a loved one, whether it’s a grandparent or a parent or a partner.
“It’s vital that we meet the needs of this ageing society, and through cutting edge research like this we will ensure that as technology advances, the UK leads the way in designing and adopting it, growing our status as a global science superpower.”
“There are lots of ways in which technology can enhance care and make it more efficient, but for now and possibly forever there’s no substitute for the human touch when it comes to personal care,” said Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age U.K.
“Maybe in the future technology will evolve to the point at which ‘robots’ are able to provide for many of our needs, including personal care,” she added, “but we don’t see it happening very soon.”