Monthly Archives: April 2012

Eden Alternative – In the Community

After reading this article here I was interested to find out a little more about Professor Bill Thomas the founder of the Eden Alternative and its influence here in the UK. The Eden Alternative is a movement that is “dedicated to transforming care environments into habitats for human beings that promote quality of life for all involved”. The video below gives further insights into a philosophy that also extends out into the community to help elderly people living in their own homes.

I was however a little disappointed with some of the comments that Bill Thomas was quoted as saying regarding the Eden Alternative perspective in a recent interview about robots and elderly people;

“I can say with confidence that people in that reform movement really are not looking for a robot to solve our problems,”

I think I need to find out a bit more!

The idea of improving elderly people’s lives by addressing aspects of spatial, social & cultural well being is hardly new thinking and yet the Eden Alternative seems to epitomize and accordingly highlight the view that these essential moral, social & cultural responsibilities are not actually being maintained in contemporary elder care spaces – formal or informal?

However, as Sherry Turkle has maintained since the late 90’s the possibilities of emotional engagement with robots present a potential change in our social psychology and further to this perhaps, new distance oriented social networking arrangements. Perhaps Bill Thomas has not seen the robotic technology which is currently available and which may yet solve some of our problems – including the points highlighted in my previous post regarding care home abuse in the UK.

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Care Home Abuse in the UK

In recent years the exposure of failing state aided services for the elderly has gathered pace in the UK. The video below taken from BBC’s Panorama is the latest and probably the most disturbing, gratuitous & shocking example we have seen to date.

It’s worrying to note however that this abuse was only exposed due to a hidden camera placed in Maria’s care home room by her concerned daughter.

The central question here then could be – why can’t we have wi-fi camera’s monitoring any vulnerable person in any care setting. The cost is minimal and yet the comfort of being able to look in on your elderly Mum or Dad whenever possible would be invaluable. Notwithstanding the benefits for the care facility itself and associated health services. There are of course privacy issues here but hardly insurmountable with recent developments in surveillance software & multi-agency protocols.

Maria was left in her room alone for 13 hours, every day without even a television switched on for company? Imagine the considerable benefits of a small remotely accessible personal companion robot which could not only project Skype style communication but also family video’s, photo’s, TV or even Maria’s favourite music. If this telepresence equipped social robot is also tactile and huggable, the haptic comforts of having a ‘daemon’ like presence are very clear. The combination of all these technologies into a working socially equipped companion robot is available now! As the brilliant LuminAR project shows below new technology can be inexpensive and easily adapted for this type of social robot!

A conveniently removable & washable tactile coat could finish off this personal companion style robot.

It has become all too painfully clear that we cannot leave the care of our vulnerable family members & friends exclusively to the ill equipped & inadequately regulated hands of state aided and commercial care?

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