Recently, Amazon unleashed many smart home products onto the market, and while some have already fallen into murmurings, others have garnered considerable attention. Take for instance, Amazon’s Astro robot. The little smart home device has been the talk of the town with many either criticizing, ridiculing or speculating what the device has on offer. And one of those speculations has been on what the robot means for caregiving and senior living as a whole.
In writing for Quartz, Lila MacLellan as interestingly pointed out that there is a very high potential for the robot to be built out for use in retirement homes with dementia patients, especially at night. As Maclellan states, overnight staffing at these facilities could potentially be augmented with a device like Astro that could not only keep a watchful eye on patients, but also help lead them back to rooms using its built-in Echo Show display.
Indeed, the foundation has been set in a way. Astro’s announcement came in tandem with a unique subscription service called Alexa Together, that offers a 24/7 helpline and fall detection for seniors, built around the elderly-focused Care Hub on the Alexa app. Additionally, family members can use the service to manage shopping lists and set up reminders on behalf of loved ones that Astro can then deliver.
There’s a Need for Senior-Centric Technology
While some of marked the Astro as silly, others have criticized Amazon’s creeping influence into home environments. However, Astro (and by extension Alexa Together) have highlighted a very under-represented demographic within the technology landscape: the elderly.
The truth is that, of all the technological innovations that exist, not a whole lot are tuned into elderly accessibility. In fact, it’s rather concerning how little technological advancements there are to either help elderly individuals in their day-to-day lives or help caregivers in residential and assisted living facilities.
As the largest demographic shift approaches, with Baby Boomers entering into retirement over the next few decades, senior living leaders have already stated the current way of doing things cannot last. One option would be to hire more caregivers, but a growing amount of research has delved into how technology like voice-assistants and other smart home innovations can help seniors and caregivers alike.
With most seniors preferring to age in place at home, the option for technology to provide a safe and effective means of doing so is absolutely necessary. The pandemic has also highlighted a serious need for understaffed caregivers to be able to supplement their workforce in cost-effective ways that help ease the stress of their already overworked teams.
Robots Have Already Proven Themselves in Multiple Environments
Security teams have already used robots to augment their staff for monitoring events and commercial facilities with considerable success. Senior living homes, as well, have already adopted robots as both assistants and companions for their residents.
The reality is while robots are still somewhat viewed as novelties, advancements in sensors and processing capabilities have pushed the product category into a far more useful solution. For caregivers and family members tasked with taking care of a loved one in their later years, the value Astro holds as an affordable caregiving solution, as well as peace of mind, is something that cannot be overlooked.
There’s an important conversation to be had, not just in the usual way of how privacy and safety must be handled as devices such as this are invited into the home, but how, when handled correctly, they can help an over-stressed workforce and a categorically underrepresented, and rapidly growing, demographic.