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Gearing Up for the Silver Tsunami

December 5, 2008   |   Alliance for Aging Research Team   |   Aging Research, Caregiving (Health), Geriatric Workforce Issues

As the Silver Tsunami approaches, more and more families will be faced with the choice of staying at home and caring for their loved one or finding outside assistance. The uBOT-5 from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst may be available to help.

In 2011, baby boomers will start turning 65 in record numbers, and unfortunately many will need long-term care because of chronic disease. While some family members will be able to care for them at home or afford to hire help, others may find themselves stuck because of work and time constraints or a lack of geriatric care workers in their community. This is when uBOT-5 may come to the rescue. It is a robot researchers are developing to perform everyday tasks for seniors such as picking up something that has fallen to the floor or getting the mail. The robot may also be able to help in emergency situations by calling 911 if necessary, and researchers hope that the robot will eventually be able to perform basic tests such as measuring blood pressure. It may even help with long-distance caregiving by allowing certain users access, through the internet, to a video screen and communication system. Relatives, and even doctors, would then be able to see and converse with their loved one/patient at home. Though the robot would provide a great monitoring system and could help ease the burden on families, health care professionals will still need to be available to answer medical questions (remotely or otherwise) and perform more complex health tests. Currently, there is a big gap between the number of seniors and the geriatric care professionals that are available to help them. This gap is only going to increase. If steps are not taken now, the U.S. will not have the 36,000 geriatricians it needs by 2030. This does not even account for other health workers such as nurses, who tend to help more with in-home care, that are just as far behind. While this exciting technology will positively impact long-term home care, the U.S. still needs to focus on training the thousands of geriatric care professionals it needs before the Silver Tsunami hits.

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