Jun 18, 2017

We're getting old. We need robots to take care of us

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

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10:30 p.m. ET: 5,494,287 — Total deaths: 346,229 — Total recoveries — 2,31,722Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10:30 p.m. ET: 1,662,302 — Total deaths: 98,218 — Total recoveries: 379,157 — Total tested: 14,604,942Map.
  3. World: Italy reports lowest number of new cases since February — Ireland reports no new coronavirus deaths on Monday for the first time since March 21 — WHO suspends trial of hydroxychloroquine over safety concerns.
  4. 2020: Trump threatens to move Republican convention from North Carolina — Joe Biden makes first public appearance in two months.
  5. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks over Memorial Day.
  6. Economy: New York stock exchange to reopen its floor on Tuesday — White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Charities refocus their efforts to fill gaps left by government.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 20 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Pro-Hong Kong resolution at British university fails after Chinese student opposition

A protester waves the Hong Kong colonial flag during a July 2019 demonstration against the extradition law to China. Photo: Ivan Abreu/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

A student resolution expressing support for the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement was voted down at the University of Warwick in England, after opposition from mainland Chinese students.

Why it matters: The charged politics of China's actions in Hong Kong are spilling over to university campuses thousands of miles away, raising questions for students and university administrators about how to protect democratic values.

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

California announced Monday that places of worship and retailers can reopen statewide if they maintain strict measures and meet certain other conditions.

Zoom in: The state health department said in new guidance attendance for churches and other places of worship must have approval from county health officials to reopen and cap attendance at 25% of the building's capacity or no more than 100 people. In-store retail can resume statewide.