Robot vacuum cleaners fall out of favour with nation’s elderly

An increasing number of councils are letting the recipients of elderly care choose whether they want their homes vacuumed by a robot or a council-hired cleaner

Councils are no longer forcing their elderly residents to make do with robot vacuum cleaners, according to Jyllands-Posten newspaper.

Among them is Frederiksberg Council, which has decided that technology isn’t always the best solution.

“We thought it would be easier to introduce the new technology into the homes of the elderly than it was,” council member Flemming Brank (Konservative) told Jyllands-Posten. “But we moved too quickly […]  and in recognition of that we have changed position.”

In October 2011, Billund Council won a court case that allowed them to stop providing cleaners for their elderly residents, arguing that they could just buy a robot vacuum cleaner.

Many councils followed Billund’s move and according to a study by the association of councils, Kommunernes Landsforening, two-thirds of the nation's councils have now introduced robot vacuum cleaners.

But a study in Frederiksberg has shown that very few people had actually taken up the offer to buy robot vacuum cleaners and instead were paying expensive private companies to do the cleaning.

The council has now decided to give elderly residents the right to try a robot cleaner for three months before letting them decide whether to continue with the robot or have a person come in to do the vacuuming instead.

“We have learned from this situation,” Brank said. “As far as new technology is concerned, at least vacuuming, it is important to agree with users about whether they are ready for it.”

Olav Felbo, a consultant for the elderly advocacy group Ældre Sagen, argues that other councils could learn from Frederiksberg’s move.

“Welfare technology can be a positive step forward in a range of areas but it should be introduced in a way that gives residents some influence over what is the best decision,” Felbo told Jyllands-Posten. “The problem is that many residents have experienced a considerable reduction in their quality of life by having a robot vacuum cleaner instead of receiving help in other ways.”