This story starts in Japan, but to be honest, could have started at numerous points in my life.
There I was in Fukuoka standing in the middle of Robosquare surrounded by elves.
It was totally all robots.
On my right was Aibo the little robot dog, and on my left, Paro the big scary looking seal. Now, I don’t think Paro is intentionally meant to look scary, in fact he’s a robot for the elderly and the advertising that comes along with it, is hilarious. There’s Paro with a nun, Paro in a car with a woman pretending to drive, and Paro chilling with an elderly couple. Paro in all sense is an animal companion, meant to help people who are aging and might not have access to a live animal, or a human.
But at that moment, as I looked into Paro’s cold, dead eyes, I realized I wouldn’t want that around any aging family member of mine. I felt that as soon as the lights went off, there would be Paro, destined to eat your face while you slept.
Perhaps I’m being a little harsh or overdramatic here in regards to a mechanical mammal, but I think our elderly deserve much better than what we have laid out for them, technology wise and everything else.
Over the last decade of my life, I’d had the amazing opportunity to meet thousands of people who were so different, but the ones who stuck with me were the ones whom we heard least about, seniors. There was the 75 year old who almost made me not get to Costa Rica because she had had a wild night out before…with a 50 year old. There was the nurse who had biked across Canada at 65, the entrepreneur at 80, and the tiny little mid-wives I met in my Mexico City hostel, all in their later years, all still making a huge impact on their communities and also beating me at stair climbing. The list was long and vast, and the people were amazing, not like the typical variation of seniors such as Grandpa Simpson, that we see on tv.
It’s not just the spotlight on people that our society lacks though, it’s also the spotlight on aging and death that we pretend won’t happen.
Spoiler alert, just like everyone poops, everyone also get older and dies.
This is not my story, but a collaboration of hundreds of thousands of voices. Some who I knew very well, and others I only saw in an article. They all matter though. This all matters. We are all going to grow old, but society still lacks so much recognition, products and knowledge for aging. Granted, getting older is still a fairly new thing, but we cannot ignore it anymore.
And with that, welcome to The Adult Lab.