Gov’t plans to use robots to care for elderly people

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Gov’t plans to use robots to care for elderly people

The government plans to have 5,000 robots working to look after Korea’s rapidly aging population by 2023, three years before the country becomes a hyper-aging society in 2026.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy and the Ministry of Health and Welfare on Monday held a joint forum on dolbom, or care, in Korean robotics in preparation for a hyper-aging society, when more than 20 percent of the population is over 65.

The Industry and Energy Ministry said it will work on improving systems so that robotic technologies can be developed quickly enough so that 5,000 elderly care-related robots can be distributed by 2023. Additionally, in speeding up the spread of such robots, the government is planning to adopt a financial service system where these robots could be rented or leased to reduce the burden of cost.

Elderly care robots could perform any number of tasks from surgery to physical support and even be wearables. The government particularly noted growing demand for such professional help due to the changing demographic. However, because of the intensity of the job and the shortage of people working in the industry, the burden on caregivers helping elderly people and those with disabilities is increasing.

The swift application of robotic technologies that can ease that burden is essential.

“We expect that this forum will not only help the robotic industry to grow, but will also give hope to nurses and caretakers who face many difficulties [in tending to elderly people and people with disabilities],” said Choi Nam-ho, director general of the ministry’s manufacturing industry department.

The Health and Welfare Ministry said it will run small groups under the Dolbom Robot Network with both government departments as well as researchers and potential users continuously communicating on various issues including verifying the cost effectiveness of the robots that are in development.

As of 2017, Korea is already an aged society with 14 percent of its population 65 years old or older. It only took 17 years for Korea to transition from an aging society, where only 7 percent are 65 or older, to an aged one. According to Statistics Korea, Korea’s transition from being an aging population to aged population is seven years faster than that of Japan.

BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]

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