To say that Japan's population will shrink over the next 83 years is an understatement. According to official state figures, the country will go from about 126 million people today to about 50 million in 2100, a 60% plunge.

Moreover, the makeup of Japan's population will utterly change, too. From about 15% of the population, people 65 and older will be 35% in 2100. And the working age population whose salaries are supporting the old will plunge: in 1970, Japan had 8.5 workers to support every retired person; in 2050, the number will be 1.2.

As you see in the chart below, these numbers reflect the trend in most of the world. Right now, the median age across the planet is around 29. In 2100, it will be 42. When you exclude Africa, the whole world will be, on average, 60 or older in just over three decades.

Expand chart
Data: United Nations, World Population Prospects; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

All of which is to say there is good reason for the development of elderly care robots. Many robot companies are focusing on just this area of development. Among them is iRobots, the makers of the Roomba robot vacuum. Watch this video of iRobots CEO Colin Angle, speaking to Axios about how the elderly can "age gracefully in place."

What can robots do? Either now or soon they will be able to:

  • Take grocery orders and pick them up
  • Keep the house tidy
  • Check vital statistics and report when things go wrong
  • Provide company of a sort
  • Supply chauffeur services

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