The report details how the Commission and its Japanese partners have created smart living environments (.pdf) utilising culturally and behaviourally competent care robots, assisting elderly people.
Throughout the developed world the population is ageing
The number of Europeans aged 80 or older is expected to nearly triple in numbers by 2070, representing 28% of Europeans. In 2000, there were approximately five persons of working age per person aged 65+. Today, it is three to one. By 2070, the ratio will be two to one (Eurostat, 2018). In Japan, people aged 65 years and older represented 28% of its population in 2018, according to the World Bank.
Demographic change and an ageing population creates new challenges for society and the elderly. In addition to health-related age impairments such as chronic health conditions, increased frailty and declining cognitive abilities, elderly people may experience social exclusion and increased loneliness. There are various implications related to this, including having fewer potential caregivers available to look after a growing elderly population.
Digital innovation may offer a solution to the challenges. However, it is critical that any proposed solutions are accepted by the users and perceived as bringing value. Digital technologies provide the opportunity for elderly people to better monitor their health status, improve their mental health and empower them to cope with sickness and loneliness. Integrating digital health solutions into health and care services provision can greatly empower the elderly and contribute to autonomous and active ways of living.
Behaviourally and culturally competent care robots ready to use
Based on the international cooperation established between the EU and Japan in 2017, funds were dedicated to recently completed projects: ACCRA and CARESSES.
The ACCRA project aimed to utilise behaviourally sensitive and adaptive care robots. One type used is an assistive smart robotic platform that looks like a robotic walking frame and helps elderly people walk and do exercises. Another type was designed as a home companion for entertainment, reminding the user to take medicine and managing diary appointments the diary.
The care robots take different cultures across the EU and Japan into account, having been co-created in Italy, the Netherlands and Japan.
ACCRA project website: https://www.accra-project.org/en/sample-page/
CARESSES (Culture-Aware Robots and Environmental Sensor Systems for Elderly Support) is a multidisciplinary, international project with the goal of designing the first care robots that can adapt their behaviour and speech to the culture and actual behavior of the person they are assisting.
The robot reminds users to take their medication, encourages them to keep active and eat a healthy diet, helps them keep in touch with family and friends through the Internet and reminds them about important cultural and religious festivals.
The robots interacted with Japanese, Indian and English participants in trial sites in the EU and Japan. CARESSES was funded by the EU and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications of Japan.
International collaboration and funding opportunities
During IDIH Week 2021 that took place between 1-4 June, there was a unique opportunity to explore funding opportunities for international cooperation, build partnerships and engage in discussions on latest trends with experts from partner countries such as USA, Canada, China, Japan and South Korea.
The IDIH Week was a part of the European project IDIH – International Digital Health Cooperation for Preventive, Integrated, Independent and Inclusive Living (https://idih-global.eu). The IDIH project is cofunded by the Commission under the EU’s Horizon 2020, aiming to promote and increase international cooperation to advance digital health in the EU and strategic partner countries: the USA, Canada, China, Japan and South Korea.