Call: Teleconference on April 11: “Robotics and Older Persons: Empowering Independent Living or Intensifying Isolation?”

BioCentre invites you to its next THOUGHT LEADER TELECONFERENCE:


Friday 11th April 2014, 3pm (UK time)

There is still time to register for this exciting discussion later this week

Telecons are open to all and accessible worldwide. To receive call–in details, email your name and affiliation to:

Participating speakers will include:

  • DR. GLENDA COOK, Professor of Nursing, specialising in gerontology and long term care of older people, Northumbria University, Newcastle
  • DEBORAH GALE, Gerontologist, writer and commentator
  • DR WALTER GREENLEAF, Senior Research Scholar and Director, Mind Division, Stanford Center on Longevity, Stanford University, USA
  • DR AMANDA SHARKEY, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Computer Science, University of Sheffield.

The fastest growing population in developed nations is those aged 65 and older. Estimates propose that there are 10 million over–65s in the United Kingdom – 1.5 million of those are over 85 – and the figures are expected to rise in the coming years. Globally, over 60 year olds represent 11% of the world population and is expected to double by 2050.

Research suggests about three–quarters of elderly people will develop a social care need, which can include anything from help getting up in the morning to round–the–clock support in a residential home. The numbers of younger, disabled adults are predicted to rise too, as medical advances mean many people with disabilities including Downs Syndrome, are living longer. In the 21C, use of lifelike robots in care of older adults is an emerging social change with compelling implications for the positive disruption in healthcare provision for older adults.

In light of this rapid rise in the elderly population, scientists are suggesting that robots could take on some of the burden of providing care, support and even a form of companionship. If this notion seems difficult to imagine you only have to look at countries that are much further down this route such as Japan which has the world’s oldest population. Here 2.39bn yen (£14.3m) was allocated in the 2013 budget to develop robots to help with care.

Currently applications range from those that monitor and keep track of a person’s medical condition, automatically alerting care staff when their intervention and assistance is required, to assistive technologies designed to assist elderly people complete basic tasks such as turning on a tap, washing their hair or feeding themselves. One company in America estimates that by 2020 the personal assistant robot will be as ubiquitous as the PC is today.

The optimum future is one in which the use of robotics will help older people live safer, more connected lives. But evidence suggests that there may be a psychological, philosophical and even spiritual implications of robots replacing traditional nursing care and nursing values.

Thus, the challenges of an ageing population are vast and technology could help solve some of these issues.

But what are the key questions which need to build the agenda on this subject as we prepare for the future?

  • How far should technology monitor the health needs of the elderly and assist them in everyday tasks? How do we keep in tension monitoring, assistance, care and control?
  • Is there a problem with “inauthentic relationships” (Sherry Turkle, MIT) between humans and robots?
  • Given that there is little evidence of older people being involved in the design process, how can innovators harness the perspectives and insights of the ageing population in their research and development of new technologies?
  • How do you keep the human more important than the technology or is that becoming less important?

Join us for what promises to be a stimulating discussion.

Telecons are open to all and accessible worldwide.

To receive call–in details, email your name and affiliation to:


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