Sociology Department Colloquium: Jerry Jacobs

Thu April 18th 2019, 12:30pm
McClatchy Hall, Building 120, Studio 40
Sociology Department Colloquium: Jerry Jacobs

Please join us for a colloquium being given by Jerry Jacobs, Professor of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, and 2018-2019 fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.

Will the Robots Take Care of Grandma?

This lecture will use elder care as an entry point into a broader discussion of technology and the future of work. Robots currently do not provide physical care for the elderly, not even in Japan.  So the short answer is “no,” robots per se will not replace scarce home-health aides or visiting nurses anytime soon.

Instead, technolog(ies) are likely to facilitate aging in place. This is going to shift where work is located rather than decrease the amount of work. The home care devices will include:

1. smart phones
2. smart homes (internet of things)
3. voice activated systems
4. transportation technologies (driver assist as well as self-driving cars)
5. personal mobility technologies (personal airbags, exoskeletons)
6. wearables
7. in-home monitors and sensors
8. medical communication systems
9. medical advances

While many of these technologies are being adopted by institutional care providers, the effect of these is likely to increase aging in place because most elders prefer living independently as long as possible. Ironically, new technologies may increase work, as home-based care is arguably more labor intensive than is institutional care.

Another key trend is that increases in frail or dependent life expectancy is increasing along with increases in HEALTH life expectancy. So the demand for care work for the elderly is almost certainly going to increase for the foreseeable future as both healthy and disabled life expectancy increase. 

Efforts to increase the supply of home-health aides and professionals are likely to include gig—economy strategies and paying family members to be caregivers.  Stark inequalities by income, gender, race and ethnicity – for both caregivers and recipients – are likely to persist.