Robot teddy bears for elders

This article and this one minute Japanese video describe a robot teddy bear:

The hope is to use them for “robot therapy” in geriatric medicine for patients that suffer from dementia, says Fujitsu.

In SRV workshops, we teach about the devalued role of child for elders (‘second childhood’). Teddy bears are typically associated with quite young children. The robot teddy can place vulnerable elders into the role of child again, in the minds of their staff, family and any visitors for example.

In SRV workshops, we also teach about the practice of ‘animal or pet therapy,’ bringing a pet dog or bunny to a nursing home for the nursing home residents to spend time with, ostensibly to calm them or ‘make them happy.’ One of the SRV-based concerns about this common practice is the association of societally devalued people with animals in a way that is likely to cast vulnerable people into the animal role. Another fundamental problem with such ‘pet therapy’ practices is that it all too often displaces human presence, companionship and relationship. (Consider what the common unconscious assumptions behind such a practice might be; e.g., devalued people do not need, want or deserve human relationship.) Perhaps this robot teddy is a high-tech version of that practice.

Consider also the robot teddy both in terms of image and competency:

• What images are communicated about elders with dementia, particularly in light of the common negative stereotypes surrounding dementia?

• What does having a robot teddy bear which is built to respond to external stimuli (such as noise or a hand waving) do for someone who is confused perhaps about their surroundings, has trouble processing or remembering information, or is sometimes confused about who and what is real?

Posted on October 19, 2010 at 2:25 pm by MTumeinski · Permalink
In: Uncategorized · Tagged with: , ,

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  1. Written by Stevie Younker
    on March 21, 2012 at 8:36 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    In my opinion the robot teddy bear is almost like a replacement for human/social interactions. The robot teddy bear is very devaluing for elders, because it makes it appear that they are capable of talking to humans they have to result to a toy or an animal. I also think that this toy is not logical for an elder with dementia to have. They already get confused about what is and is not real, so wouldn’t a talking, moving teddy bear be even more confusing? It would make more sense for them to develop a memory program for the computer or a workshop in order to help them with their memory, rather than handing them a moving teddy bear. I do not know if this makes sense to anyone else, but I do not understand why people think of elders as children therefore providing them with toys and stuffed animals. I wish I knew when elders started being devalued this way, because I always think of my elders as well respected, because they made it through so much in life including hard times such as The Great Depression. I think society needs to think more in-depth about what their elders have been through, because in my mind they are highly valued due to how wise they are and the hard times they have been through.

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