Senior citizens in the inner Copenhagen borough of Frederiksberg can breathe a sigh of relief; the local authority has decided not to force them to buy robot cleaners and is offering to buy the droids off those who have already purchased them.
The Borough Council had otherwise passed and has introduced its decision to remove vacuum cleaning from the services provided by home helps, urging senior citizens to purchase a robot vacuum cleaner instead.
However, most of the 567 senior citizens involved have refused to buy one and have instead had to engage private cleaning companies to do the job. Only 20 of the 567 have purchased one of the unpopular robots.
“No it hasn’t been a big success. We were surprised as the idea wasn’t to force our senior citizens to choose an expensive, private company solution,” says Health and Care Committee Chairman Flemming Brank.
Frederiksberg, which is a borough located within central Copenhagen, is the first local council to do an about-face and withdraw already introduced robot care – although other councils have also had cold feet.
Both Horsens and Struer councils in Jutland have jettisoned the idea after limited trial periods.
Frederiksberg’s decision comes despite the government’s Home Help Commission report that welfare technology such as robot vacuum cleaners, automatic lavatories and self-operating curtains will be a ‘core solution to the challenges of home help’ in order to allow senior citizens to manage more tasks themselves.
Frederiksberg Council has now offered to pay for and remove robot vacuum cleaners that have already been purchased. Those senior citizens eligible for home help will then be offered a trial period with a robot in the hope that they will buy one themselves. If not, the council will continue to provide vacuum cleaning help.
The chairman of the Senior Citizens Committee in Frederiksberg, Axel Mossin, has welcomed the move, saying that politicians have been too technology-crazy, adding that robot vacuum cleaners probably pose more problems than they solve.
Among other issues, the cleaners don’t clean particularly well, and have to be emptied and cleaned themselves – something that is rather difficult for an arthritis-plagued senior citizen who has difficulty bending down.
“All of the home help recipients that I have been in contact with, have all been concerned as to whether they have to move their furniture or cut the fringes off their carpets in order that the robots can clean rooms,” Mossin says.
A recent survey showed that two thirds of Denmark’s local councils have introduced private robot vacuum cleaning. The Social Democratic Parliamentary Social Affairs Spokeswoman Maja Panduro believes the movement towards technological solutions for senior citizens will continue – irrespective of issues with robot vacuum cleaners.
“You can’t just see the welfare technology issue as solely one of robot vacuum cleaners. They’ve been portrayed as an ogre, as if they are an eight-armed monster. But the idea with rehabilitation is to look at the aid issue and see what older people can do, and give them more say in their own lives. Robot vacuum cleaners play a role in that, but alongside a lot of other technology,” she says.
Frederiksberg Red Green Counsellor Thyge Enevoldsen, who was the only counsellor to be against robot vacuum cleaners all along, says the Council has simply made a mess of things, with politicians now reacting to an increasing number of protests.
“After all, this is election year,” he says.
Local government elections are due in November this year.
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Edited by Julian Isherwood