Japan’s population is aging faster than ever and the country is making efforts to find practical solutions for taking care of the elderly. One such solution is creating affordable robots that might replace human caregivers in the close future.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has allocated Y2.39 billion in the budget for fiscal 2013 to help develop nursing care robots, the international press reports, while 24 companies in Japan will receive subsidies covering half to two-thirds of the cost of developing what it calls “nursing care robot equipment.”
“We aim to realize mass marketing of cheap robots costing Y100,000 to Y200,000 (about $1,000 to $2,000), no matter whether they look like a typical humanoid robot,” Akifumi Kitashima, deputy director of the industry ministry’s industrial machinery division in charge of the project said.
The robots will be used for helping the elderly move or go to the toilet. They seem to be a good solution for replacing human caregivers, as the latter tend to abandon this job due to the low pay and to the back pains they suffer because of the constant lifting of the elderly between bed and wheelchairs.
“I think people’s hearts, caring, and the warmth of physical contact can never be replaced by robots,” said Kobayashi. “But with many in the nursing care industry suffering from back pain, I am hoping that robots will be developed eventually so that they can ease such problems and enable them to work longer.”
The number of people aged 65 or older in Japan is expected to increase by about 7.09 million over the 15 years from 2010.