Applying care robotics in elderly care is gaining more and more interest in Finland. So far only a few applications are commercially available, due to deficiencies in technology but also due to non-technical barriers such as reasonably low acceptance of care robots. Some robot applications have been taken into use already. Paro the therapy seal robot has been adopted during recent years across Finland in dozens of care facilities for e.g. dementia care. Zora the humanoid recreation robot is a newcomer in the field, but has also been taken into use in several elderly care service homes. An essential reason for care service managers to adopt these robots can be the emotional value (“good feelings”) that the robots bring to the elderly users and the novelty and PR value the robot makes in care. Positive responses to the robots tend to be emphasised also among careworker end-users. According to careworkers, negatively-toned expectations can be even turned to positive response due to a person’s own experience of using the robot – the careworker may feel being able to give better care when using the robot. (They also see that the robots are not suitable to all elderly and not all times.) Neither Paro or Zora influence the work routines of careworkers itself in terms of reducing workload or improving work ergonomics. Nevertheless, the robots are seen to pave the way toward acceptance of other care robotics. They may also attract new workforce in the care industry.
This blog posting is based on an article “Expectations and experiences of adopting robots in elderly care in Finland: perspectives of caregivers and decision-makers” by Marketta Niemelä, Hannamaija Määttä and Mari Ylikauppila, presented in ICServ2016 Conference, session Meaningful Technologies for Seniors, 6.-8.9.2016, Tokyo, Japan.