Reconceptualizing Autonomy in Elderly Care in the Robot Era

A Relational Perspective

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In response to the pressing demand for elderly care, care robots, the robots used by care receivers and/or caregivers for care purposes in various settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes, and personal residences were introduced and have been gaining traction as a technological solution to improve care quality and to enhance the value of autonomy. Despite all the benefits offered by robotic innovations, the consequent ethical issues in human-robot relationships in elderly care warrant sustained scrutiny. Due to the technological breakthroughs in robotics and its impacts on relationships in elderly care, the conventional dyadic human-robot interaction (HRI) model which focuses on one human and one robot, and the dominant Western individualistic understanding of autonomy are insufficient for the ethical evaluation of robots in elderly care.