If all goes according to plan, grandparents will soon be lawn bowling with robots. The elder care industry has recently struggled to keep pace with the swelling numbers of retiring Boomers, and the problem is expected to reach crisis levels within the coming years.
With hopes of averting a disaster, techno-futurists are at work designing the best robotic caretakers possible.
The machines have already been introduced on a wider scale in Japan, where the government has funneled billions of yen into the production of custodial robots capable of leading older folks around elderly facilities, “assisting with their toilet needs,” and locating the bold geriatrics who decide to walk off the premises.
But there appears to be at least one major blind spot in the sci-fi master plan. Senior citizens in the United States are surprisingly not overly concerned about the effects the robots will have on themselves, according to the results of a recent survey of 640 retirees above the age of 60 (average age was 68) published as part of the proceedings of the Association for Computer Machinery’s CHI conference.
They are instead worried about how the machines might affect younger generations, like their children and grandchildren. People frequently subscribe to the notion that they will not suffer from the effects of a certain form of media or technology but are certain that it will have a negative effect on others.
This phenomenon is known as the “third-person effect.” “The greatest negative effects are predicted to occur among imagined audiences that are socially distant from the individual’s own reference group,” the Pennsylvania State University media researchers explain in their paper. “For the population of interest in this study, namely senior citizens, the obvious ‘other’ group is younger people.”
Elderly Fear Their Future Robot Friends Will Corrupt Children - Pacific Standard: The Science of Society