Robots don’t wipe butts – future of elder care?

Gerontology and Geriatrics

If we build them, will they be accepted? The Simpsons S31:E12 does not satirize issues about privacy and personal information – just butt wiping. [1] Might co-design and co-production of care robots improve acceptance? [2]

The crew

A team of international researchers, a model of robot acceptance, a small cross-sectional study across Japan, Ireland, and Finland.

The challenge

“Although care robots are being developed and improved at a rapid pace, their social acceptance has been limited.”

• Science Daily > “Care robots: Ethical perceptions and acceptance” by Chiba University (August 29, 2023) – The increased burden of elder care may lead to a shortage of caregivers in a decade’s time.

The global population of people older than 65 years of age is rapidly increasing the need for care. Although care robots are a promising solution to fill in for caregivers, their social implementation has been slow and unsatisfactory. A team of international researchers has now developed the first universal model that can be employed across cultural contexts to explain how ethical perceptions affect the willingness to use care robots.


[1] The Simpsons, Season 31, Episode 12 “The Miseducation of Lisa Simpson

Listen up.

These nerds have found out something terrifying. This school was supposed to prepare you for the jobs of the future. But in the future, all the jobs we’ve learned here will be done by robots. The only job left for humans will be …

Elder care!

(all gasping)

The one job even robots won’t do.

What about STEM?

Here’s what it really stands for.

Sponge Bathing

[The new STEM school self-destructs when the kids’ user ratings go to zero stars.]

Yeah, but we escaped having to take care of old people.

No, that’s still the only job that’s going to exist.

Now we just won’t know how to do it.

(both groan)

[2] Adaptive programming of robot companions is dramatized in the movie Robot & Frank (2012).

… the filmmakers wanted Robot & Frank to explore the subject … technology is “not bad or good but it will change the way we relate to each other.”

Journal-writer Aino-Kaisa Koistinen … discusses how its plot and bond between the characters and robots was “…making visible the powerlessness of these old men in terms of deciding for their own care.”