The EU Commission and Japan have strengthened their research and innovation collaboration to develop and deploy culturally and behaviourally competent care robots for elderly people.
During IDIH Week 2021, that took place between 1-4 June, the EU engaged in discussions on advancing digital trends and promoting international cooperation with experts from partner countries such as USA, Canada, China, Japan and South Korea.
IDIH is part of the European project IDIH (International Digital Health Cooperation for Preventive, Integrated, Independent and Inclusive Living), which is cofounded by the Commission under the EU’s Horizon 2020.
From the event, the report was drawn up to detail how the Commission and its Japanese partners have created smart living environments (.pdf) utilising culturally and behaviourally competent care robots to assist elderly people.
WHY IT MATTERS
According to a 2018 report by Eurostat, the number of Europeans aged 80 or older is expected to nearly triple in numbers by 2070, representing 28% of Europeans. In 2000, there were approximately five persons of working age per person aged 65+. Today, it is three to one and by 2070, the ratio will be two to one. According to the World Bank, in Japan, people aged 65 years and older represented 28% of its population in 2018.
Health-related age impairments and various chronic health conditions that are common in elderly people, create challenges such as social exclusion and loneliness. This results in potentially fewer caregivers available to look after a growing elderly population.
In 2017, international cooperation was established between the EU and Japan, enabling the completion of projects, ACCRA and CARESSES.
The ACCRA project uses behaviourally sensitive care robots such as an assistive smart robotic walking frame to help elderly people walk and exercise.
CARESSES (Culture-Aware Robots and Environmental Sensor Systems for Elderly Support) is a project that aims to design care robots that can adapt their behaviour and speech to the culture and behaviour of the person they are assisting.
The care robots have been co-created in Italy, the Netherlands and Japan to learn and take into account the cultural nuances detected in the user.
THE LARGER CONTEXT
Meanwhile, the Hanjiao Group, a distributor of healthcare products for the middle-aged and elderly segments in China, has launched a new home care service platform for Chinese seniors.
In the UK, as part of the Social Care Digital Innovation Programme and the Social Care Digital Innovation Accelerators projects, 69 local authorities have developed and deployed ‘cobots’ to assist in adult social care.
ON THE RECORD
In the statement, the Commission said: “Demographic change and an ageing population creates new challenges for society and the elderly. In addition to health-related age impairments such as chronic health conditions, increased frailty and declining cognitive abilities, elderly people may experience social exclusion and increased loneliness. There are various implications related to this, including having fewer potential caregivers available to look after a growing elderly population.
“Digital innovation may offer a solution to the challenges. However, it is critical that any proposed solutions are accepted by the users and perceived as bringing value. Digital technologies provide the opportunity for elderly people to better monitor their health status, improve their mental health and empower them to cope with sickness and loneliness. Integrating digital health solutions into health and care services provision can greatly empower the elderly and contribute to autonomous and active ways of living.”
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