Comparison between Japan and Spain: Two Countries with Aging Populations

In recent years, professionals dedicated to caring for the elderly have encountered an unexpected competitor in humanoid robots (Astell & Semple, 2019; Mervin et al., 2018). These robots are implemented in several nursing homes across Europe and in Japan are common companion in nursing homes (Astell et al., 2019; Ienca et al., 2018). A debate about whether this is leading to dehumanizing the care for the elderly is overdue, as is the argument about robots are replacing their jobs.

In Spain, like in Japan, the aging population is rapidly increasing (Peterson & Ralston, 2019). In 2025, 30 percent of the Japanese population will be over 65. By 2050, Spain will reach similar statistics. According to forecasts, it is estimated that by 2025, Japan will have a shortage of 370,000 nurses needed to care for the elderly requiring special care (Hsu & Yamada, 2019). Therefore, the Japanese government and several technology companies are focusing on increasing production of simple robotic devices to help the elderly get out of bed and take a shower safely without assistance of another person. As part of the Society 5.0 initiative, the government has decided to promote a policy that will increase community acceptance of new assisting robots. As a result, four out of five elderly people are already using robots in 2020 (Tang et al., 2015). In the next five years, four out of five Japanese seniors will have a robot in their home, either a walker, like the one mentioned above, an aid to get out of bed, or similar devices that the research center is developing.

In Spain, a country with less technological culture, the use of AI and robots is limited as in other countries of Europe (Gongora Alonso et al., 2019). The existing projects are still in the research phase but achieving good results. The main barriers encountered are the reluctance of professionals to implement robotic caregivers. Professionals believe that the Soft Skills of AI are sufficiently developed to establish robust and appropriate human relationships. However, this paradigm is changing.

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