Can Automation Take Care of the Aged?
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According to a PwC report, robots will replace people in 30% of the jobs in the UK by 2030. This is just a rough estimate of the most advanced automation technology available. Currently, IoT, AI, Machine learning have already reduced the importance of humans in various jobs.
The ones who are at no or marginal risk are the aged care sector, workers. In 2016 Deloitte published a report on the economic contributions and future directions of the Australian aged care sector.
The report explains how automation is shifting humans from jobs that need muscle work to the ones that require care. It further quotes Renee Leon, Secretary for the Department of Employment;
“Over the next five years, there will be tens of thousands, probably hundreds of thousands, of jobs created in the caring sectors around community services, and aged care and health care. This was creating personal care jobs that cannot be off-shored or automated and that will provide many entry-level, and medium-skilled jobs for the workforces of the future.”
Further, Bloomberg estimates the chances of automation risk in various jobs and for aged care sector employees it is as low as 0.35% (healthcare social workers).
This is, of course, a relief for people who are looking out for employment opportunities. The pace at which the global population is aging, workers can be assured of aged care jobs. But is it a relief for our seniors as well?
Now, this question might sound strange, because why would our seniors want robots or machine run devices to do their work rather than caring and compassionate people.
But there are some heart-wrenching reasons why they might prefer hands of steel over warm human hands to provide them with the support they need in their old age. The most significant reason being neglect and abuse.
The cases of neglect by aged care homes and the workers have been rising dramatically. The Walton Law Firm has shared several real stories of their clients who suffered because of the carelessness of senior homes and workers.
Sadly, same is the case with abuse as almost 1 out of 10 seniors is vulnerable to experiencing elderly abuse.
Is this how we want our parents and grandparent to age? This is not how they brought us up. They took every pain they could to help us lead a better life. They would have been ready to forego their dreams for our happiness. They nurtured us like we were a part of their own soul.
And today, they are aging in a world that lacks compassion and humanity.
Now it might seem that an automated world could be a better place for our seniors as it will have precision and efficiency. So, the cases of neglect could reduce. It also completely eliminates the chance of abuse.
But then why are all the global leaders pointing out that aged care jobs will rise and are at the least risk of getting displaced by automation?
That is because our seniors deserve not only attentive support and an abuse-free world but also human love, care, support, and companionship.
The number of seniors who are dealing with depression has been rising, and a primary contributor is social isolation. As high as 40% seniors in Greece and Hungary are affected by lack of social contact and emotional support.
So, what’s the future?
We can’t have robots taking care, and we don’t have compassionate or responsible workers. This seems like a dead end. Thankfully, it’s not.
All that we need is someone to take responsibility for training and guiding aged care workers. Till the time a job in this sector seems like an ‘easy option,’ no one will be able to change how our seniors are treated.
With the rising population, the demand for aged care sector will rise, putting senior homes and workers on a pedestal. However, they must prove themselves to reach there.
Further, there should be a transparent scoring mechanism for all aged care services. When we have improved the quality of almost every product and service that exists today with a rating and review mechanism, then why not do the same with this sector.
Further, we might not be able to replace workers with robots, but the processes can be automated. The process of hiring workers, renting equipment, choosing or scoring an aged care home can be made largely ‘smart.’
This will put an end to the ‘anything is fine’ attitude that has been ruling the aged care sector.
To us, this seems like the silver lining for our seniors to live a healthy life, physically and mentally. It is the single answer to all problems, be it neglect, abuse, social isolation or depression.