Roh Dong-hoon, Director of Public Relations, Korea Convalescent Hospital Association

An animated film, “The Old Man Z,” was released in Japan in 1991.

The plot of the movie is as follows. Because of the serious population aging, Japan suffers from an absolute shortage of nursing hospitals and caregivers. Therefore, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Labor developed the state-of-the-art elderly care bed "Z-001" to solve the problem. Z-001 is like a bed attached to the elderly to undress and provide bathing, defecation, and meal services.

The user can walk and do simple exercises while lying on the machine. He can also conduct most other daily activities concerning TV, radio, phone, music, stocks, horse racing, games, and video chats.

Roh Dong-hoon, director for PR at Korea Convalescent Hospital Association and president of Carnation Silver Care Hospital
Roh Dong-hoon, director for PR at Korea Convalescent Hospital Association and president of Carnation Silver Care Hospital

That’s not all. Z-001 also treats its user. It measures body temperature, pulse, blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate with its sensor, takes emergency measures according to symptoms, and sends them to the medical institution.

There is also a system to prepare for earthquakes, typhoons, and thieves for older adults who have difficulty moving. Although it was 30 years ago, bio-computers that can self-proliferate, similar to artificial intelligence, were installed to provide a perfect service system for the elderly. When the user puts in the data of his deceased spouse, the machine forms her personality and communicates.

However, Mr. Takazawa, the subject of the experiment, asked volunteers to save him from Z-001.

The film Old man Z asks, “Can affectionless nursing be called nursing?” I think this is the point. The lack of nursing hospitals and caregivers in Korea running toward an ultra-aged society is a foreseen future. The alternative should solve nursing and nursing problems while wanting affectionate services simultaneously.

While running a nursing hospital, I thought about nursing problems. We even can hardly find Korean caregivers. There are various reasons, such as salary problems and working conditions. It is no longer possible to solve the problem with Korean-Chinese caregivers who replaced locals due to aging and decreasing numbers. However, there is a way to solve the problem. Just as ordering and payment through kiosks reduce the burden on part-timers, we should reduce the burden of caring with AI nursing.

However, AI and other cutting-edge technology cannot solve everything.

Just as automated production plants need people, people are essential for more personal nursing and caregiving. However, there are prerequisites, including incentive systems and compensation, to attract Korean caregivers. Still, the problem of workforce shortage remains.

How about giving language and caregiving education to nurses who graduated from nursing universities in Southeast Asia and entrusting them with nursing work? Restaurants and small- and medium-sized manufacturing industries are operable only with foreign workers. Wouldn’t it be the same with caregiving at nursing hospitals?

We need to diagnose problems caused by population aging and offer alternatives. Frictions and conflicts are inevitable in this process. A social consensus is needed on which system will be most reasonable and reduce the burden of human rights and care for the elderly in our society. And I believe a better system will emerge from the discussion.


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