Readers respond to news that robots are to be deployed in some UK care homes to reduce loneliness
Your report on the use of robots in care homes follows a familiar and dispiriting pattern (Robots to be used in UK care homes to help reduce loneliness, 7 September). Interventions of all kinds, from art groups to yoga, have been shown to improve residents’ mood and mental state, at least temporarily. Most of these interventions clearly have their own intrinsic value, but what most studies fail to account for is the grim and barren social environment that residents too commonly inhabit. Field work has shown that loneliness, isolation and a lack of human interaction is all too common within care homes. These places are generally understaffed and this is the result of chronic underfunding of the care sector. It certainly is not helped by excessive profit seeking by larger care home groups.
In such a desolate environment, it is not surprising that a bit of music, dance, reminiscence and now a robot companion helps people feel a little better. The use of robots to simulate human interaction is particularly dangerous and unwelcome in this context as it is clearly open to abuse. It is not difficult to see that low staffing levels and the consequent minimal staff-to-resident human interaction could be glossed over by the provision of non-human “companions”.