In a bid to address the challenges posed by an aging population and a shortage of caregivers, China is turning to innovative solutions involving robots, as reported by Sixth Tone.
According to Gao Hongjun, director of a senior care center in downtown Shanghai, the increasing number of elderly individuals coupled with insufficient care resources necessitates the use of smart machines to alleviate the burden on human caregivers. Gao emphasized that without such assistance, fatigue may hinder the provision of optimal care for the elderly.
Chinese policies stipulate a ratio of one caregiver for every four residents in senior care facilities. However, with only 320,000 caregivers currently serving the nation’s 8.1 million care home residents, there exists a deficit of over 1.7 million caregivers in China.
Robots are being hailed as a potential solution to this predicament, yet their high costs present a barrier to their widespread implementation. Although more than 100 Chinese robotics startups specialize in developing rehabilitation, companionship, and nursing robots, most of them are yet to achieve mass production. This is partly due to the inadequate funding provided by local authorities to enable the large-scale deployment of robots in nursing homes.
Moreover, nursing homes themselves struggle to afford the costs associated with implementing numerous robots, as illustrated by the case of Sunshine Nursing Home—a private care facility in the eastern Anhui province. The co-founder, surnamed Dong, expressed concerns that investing in smart devices would raise prices and deter potential residents.
However, despite the challenges, analysts hold optimistic views regarding the long-term prospects of China’s smart healthcare industry. A research firm based in Guangdong province released a report forecasting an “explosion” in the market over the next decade, with its size projected to be more than three times larger than in 2021 by 2027.
Gu Jie, CEO of Shanghai Fourier Intelligence, a robotics company specializing in rehabilitation devices, supports the report’s estimates. Jie believes that regardless of where the elderly reside, they all desire flexibility in their limbs and an improved mental state.
Additionally, the devices can be utilized by multiple individuals, greatly enhancing efficiency—an aspect that aligns perfectly with the principles of artificial intelligence.
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