Robot Aged Carers Are Coming For You

James Bell aged care, industry trends

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There’s a war being fought right now – robots versus humans. The prize? Providing aged care services to the ever-growing global population in need of these. The census data released earlier this week already has over 600,000 Australians over the age of 75.

In the red corner, we have the Japanese, who are standing behind their robot carers. In the blue corner, we have the Australians, who are standing behind their ever-growing skilled human workforce.

The Japanese response to the imminent explosion in demand for aged care services is cool and definitely ‘Japanese’ – it’s all about robots. Well, robotic assistance at least. Having travelled to Japan many times over the years I’ve enjoyed my time there. One of the things which always stood out was the ability to be so high tech while also embracing long held cultural traditions. Robotics are seen as a logical response to a lack of potential workforce, as well as providing opportunities to build efficiency.

In contrast, in Australia we’re looking at skilling a new generation of care providers. Does that mean we are focussed on a more human approach? It’s a discussion we’ve had at Linx – how much of aged care is a calling or a passion? We’ve not yet cracked the full answer, but one thing we have learned is that people looking for a career in this area feel a strong desire to make a difference. A common theme around careers in the 21st century is finding your passion. Personal fulfilment is a key driver for many of our students looking to get started towards a job in the aged care industry. We know from working closely with employers that core hiring requirements are now as much about attitude as skills proficiency.

On a recent trade mission to China and Taiwan with Austrade, a constant topic that was discussed was how to entice young millennials into the aged care sector. It was a surprise to hear from industry how their approaches were working. A really interesting response emerged– we need to make working in Aged Care ‘cool’. Specific strategies ranged from drawing upon perceived millennial traits of caring and community through to making the job ‘tech cool’.

At the moment wearable tech is a trend that has been embraced, while those further out on the bleeding edge are already embracing implantable tech through self-modification. The tech trends that are most frequently being cited for aged care are actually similar to those disrupting education:

• Virtual reality/augmented reality
• Wearables
• Robotics
• IoT
• Big data
• Telehealth

I think these trends have already passed a tipping point and are inevitable influences that will exert gravity on anyone who is associated with the aged care sector. It also sharpens the need to start thinking more broadly about skills for the aged care sector. These trends serve as a timely reminder to industry that the skills of yesterday are no longer sufficient for our futures. We believe there’s an opportunity to marry the tech focus of the future with the present focus on personal care – a ‘tech care’ approach. This will likely result in an aged care worker that exemplifies the best of both approaches, a carer who is as equally adept at managing robots as they are at caring.

James Bell, CEO