Could robots be the future of elder care? 

The World Health Organization estimates that by 2030, there will be 1.4 billion people older than 60 on the planet. Caring for this population will require intensive care from health professionals, but robots might help ease the burden, Nature reported Jan. 19.

Alongside colleagues, Conor McGinn, CEO of Akara Robotics, experimented with a robot at a retirement community in Washington, D.C. 

The robot was able to lead bingo games and sing-alongs, allowing staff time to attend to other tasks. It could also speak multiple languages, clean up after residents and roam the halls at night. 

A robot called PARO, created in Japan, mimics a baby seal. It was found to lower the blood pressure of residents who interacted with it, with researchers comparing the effects to interacting with live animals. 

Other robots focus on helping older adults feed themselves and keep their spaces clean. The Stretch robot from Hello Robot can vacuum, fetch items and remove clothes from a dryer.

While robots have a long way to come in terms of affordability and performance, they offer promise to aiding workers care for the elderly and help them maintain their independence.

"If we really want to reach the full potential of robotic caregivers, [the robots] have a lot to learn," said Charles Kemp, PhD, Hello Robot co-founder.

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