No need to fear robots, says industry insider

They free up staff to spend more time with residents.

When it comes to working alongside robots, Australians are suspicious they’ll put them out of work, says a sector executive.

Speaking ahead of an appearance at an industry event in Sydney next week, Lee Martin – CEO of Tanunda Lutheran Home, an aged care and retirement living provider in the Barossa Valley north-east of Adelaide – said: “We’re paranoid about robots taking over the world and taking our jobs – it’s as simple as that.”

Whilst heavy industry makes use of robotics, other sectors in Australia – including aged care – are “behind the ball” and “very immature compared to Japan and the Asias and Europe,” said Mr Martin, who will be at the International Conference Centre in Darling Harbour next week to speak about how robots are the future of aged care.

Tanunda Lutheran Home has 10 robots trundling up and down its corridors day and night. The aged care home has a centralised kitchen and laundry, as well as residential areas. “My staff were pushing very heavy trollies about 9,000 kilometres a year, causing all sorts of work cover-type issues,” said Mr Martin.

Lee Martin

“By using robots, I can reduce incidences and injuries to my staff and be more efficient in delivering food to the kitchen; pick up and deliver dirty linen and deliver back clean linen and clothes – all those sorts of things. It doesn’t need a human to push a heavy trolley when a machine can do it quite easily and more efficiently.”

Tanunda Lutheran Home also has two cleaning robots that can sweep, vacuum and wash over 800 square metres of flooring. “And they can do that in two hours,” said Mr Martin. “If I was to have a human doing that, it would take them four hours, which means that these cleaners are not assisting residents in their bathrooms or their rooms.”

And after all, as Mr Martin points out: “In the aged care space, it’s about humans looking after humans, with the human touch and so on, and letting the machines do what machines do best.”

Mr Martin told AAA that while some staff remain dubious about their robotic companions, most recognise the benefit of them carrying out the more tedious and mundane day-to-day tasks. “Staff can spend more time with the residents. And that’s what it’s all about – more time with the residents.”

To change attitudes towards robots in aged care, Mr Martin said there needs to be more positive news stories. “It’s all about sharing the fact that the robots are there to assist – and I underline the word assist – and making things more efficient.”

Mr Martin will be among 200-plus speakers attending the 13th Australian Healthcare Week conference. The two-day event – which runs from 20-21 March – is free. Register here.

Australian Ageing Agenda is a media partner of AWH 2024.

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Tags: Australian Healthcare Week Conference, Lee Martin, robots, Tanunda Lutheran Home,

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