How Robots Can Clean an Elderly Person’s Home and Pay for Themselves in Time

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Cleaning is rarely the best part of anyone’s day. In fact, for many seniors and their caregivers, keeping a home clean and safe can be an obstacle, especially when busy schedules collide or if one or the other has difficulty performing housecleaning tasks. Yet it is one of the most important parts of aging in place, since clean floors limit the risk of falls which endanger a senior’s life, and a clean home helps keep seniors healthy. In light of this fact, and the convenience of having a home cleaned automatically (giving everyone, including caregivers and care receivers, time to rest, relax, and enjoy life), technology companies have worked hard to develop robotic ways to keep homes clean and tidy.

Floor Cleaners, Vacuum Style

The first kinds of cleaning robots introduced to the wider public market were designed just to keep floors free of dust, dirt, and debris. These smaller, circular robots zoomed around, snatching up tiny objects from the floor using a small vacuum inside. By sensing objects in the area that do not belong, they work independently and do not need to be told to work even in a given room; they can be set loose in a home and work alone until they need charging, or turned off if they are not needed.

The trouble with these robots is that they can be a tripping and falling hazard, since they are small and low to the ground; seniors with mobility issues and/or vision loss may find these to be somewhat of a risk. The widest-known brand is the Roomba, and its latest models have excellent customer and expert online reviews; a cheaper alternative is Bissell’s SmartClean vacuum.

General Cleaning Tasks

There are robots that go way beyond vacuuming floors, however. The Looj can clean gutters (preventing dangerous climbs up to the roof using rickety ladders); the Braava can sweep and mop hard surfaces, resulting in even cleaner tile, hardwood, or laminate floors and eliminating the need for regular mopping; the SpotMini, a robotic cleaning dog, can travel up flights of stairs and carry small objects (even as delicate as glass), helping to pass objects to its “masters.”

All of these robots have their limitations, though; we have not quite reached the era of the Jeffersons’ cleaning robot. Floor-cleaning vacuum robots still need to be backed up by an upright vacuum every once in a while; mopping vacuums can only get so many difficult spots; and all robots are limited by battery charge. Yet all of them appear to be working well at cutting down the time and effort necessary to keep a home clean, especially for seniors and their caregivers who are crunched for time or are limited by mobility or vision.

Why Someone Might Consider One

Caregivers concerned about the time spent cleaning an elderly loved one’s home, or those with the financial ability to purchase a cleaning robot who want to free up some time in their lives, or those who are already paying for cleaning services might want to look into purchasing a robotic helper to cross a few items off the to-do list. Caregivers who do not visit the senior receiving care every day might want to consider giving a cleaning robot as a gift, to help ensure that the home is clean and that injuries and sicknesses are prevented daily without much worry.

The most important considerations are safety and finances. Any robotic helper poses its own safety hazards, including tripping or malfunction, and that should be discussed before any purchases are made. The money is a big hurdle for many seniors and their loved ones; a fairly new Roomba can cost almost four hundred dollars, and other robots are even pricier, depending on what model is chosen. Simpler robots like the Braava can run about two hundred dollars. Balancing needs, safety concerns, and budget are the keys to finding the right robotic housekeeper for an elderly loved one.

There is great interest in robots helping to fill in the gaps between a burgeoning elderly population worldwide and a lack of younger people able to care for them. Keeping an eye on the evolving technology is wise, as it is sure to develop into better and better solutions that are increasingly cost effective.

 

Sources

Bilton, Nick. (May 19, 2013). Disruptions: Helper Robots Are Steered, Tentatively, to Care for the Aging. The New York Times. Available at http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/19/disruptions-helper-robots-are-steered-tentatively-to-elder-care/?_r=0. Retrieved August 17, 2016.

Broadbent, E., Stafford, R., MacDonald, B. (October 3, 2009). Acceptance of Healthcare Robots for the Older Population: Review and Future Directions. International Journal of Social Robotics, 1: 319-330. Available at http://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/45751247/s12369-009-0030-620160518-24489-1rd1itt.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAJ56TQJRTWSMTNPEA&Expires=1472050918&Sign. Retrieved August 24, 2016.

Brown, Rich. (April 12, 2014). The robo-race is on for the housecleaning crown. Cnet.com. Available at http://www.cnet.com/news/robot-vacuum-roundup/. Retrieved August 17, 2016.

Crowe, Steve. (June 1, 2016). Meet Pillo: Your Personal Home Health Robot. Robotics Trends. Available at http://www.roboticstrends.com/article/meet_pillo_your_personal_home_health_robot. Retrieved August 17, 2016.

Gibbs, Samuel. June 24, 2016. Alphabet unveils robot dog capable of cleaning the house. The Guardian. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jun/24/alphabet-robot-dog-cleaning-housebot-spotmini. Retrieved August 17, 2016.

Miller, Mark. (May 22, 2014). An army of robots may soon be deployed: to care for the aged. Reuters. Available at http://www.reuters.com/article/us-column-miller-robots-idUSBREA4L0V120140522. Retrieved August 17, 2016.

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