Linguistic diversity is on the rise in Canada. More and more Canadians are reporting a mother tongue or language spoken at home other than English or French. The increase in other languages in Canada is mostly due to the increase in immigrant languages. This is understandable since international migration is the main driver of population growth in the country.

According to the 2011 Canadian census, 4.7 million people or 14.2% of the population reported speaking a language other than English or French*. Most job interviews here require the candidate to speak English or French. But there may be other languages required when it comes to serving such a diverse population.

Multi-lingual robot helpers can help caregivers communicate with older adults who do not speak the same language.

Chinese older female wearing face mask. Looking at Mindy.
Older adults who may have learned English (or French) as an adult often will lose the ability to communicate in their ‘new’ language (as cognitive decline and dementia impact their brain function).

Perhaps Mindy can help improve the social well-being of someone in your life who is feeling isolated because they don’t have anyone to speak with in their native language.

Mandarin Chinese

We recently met Margaret, the caring adult daughter of a Mandarin-speaking senior citizen. With a young daughter of her own at home, Margaret has been struggling as part of the ‘sandwich generation’ to keep her aging mother socially engaged and to find personal support workers who can communicate with her mother. Margaret reached out to Social Robots when she heard about Mindy – our multilingual robot tailored to engage, educate and entertain older adults.

“My mother only communicates in Mandarin. When I reached out to Social Robots I found out that their robot could speak multiple languages. I excitedly arranged a Visit with Mindy. Once the robot arrived we changed the language to Mandarin. My mom was amazed and found the robot amusing. She tried out the different functionalities and was engaged throughout our session.”

Margaret, her mother and the Mandarin-speaking community at her residence were super-excited to interact with Mindy when they got a chance to talk to Mindy. Margaret’s mom intuitively interacted with Mindy and tried different games, touched Mindy’s hand and was amused by several arm movements and gestures. Margaret’s mom said she felt as if she was interacting with her granddaughter.

Dependency Ratio

The year 2030 marks a demographic turning point for the United States**. Beginning that year, all baby boomers will be older than 65. This will expand the size of the older population so that one in every five Americans is projected to be of retirement age.

Across the globe, the growth of the senior population has led to an increasing dependency ratio. The dependency ratio*** is a measure of the number of dependents aged zero to 14 and over the age of 65, compared with the total population aged 15 to 64. A high dependency ratio causes greater social and economic burdens on the working-age population. It also puts greater demands on government support programs and the health care system.

These demographic trends are not likely to be reversed. Now is the time to start planning for a future where multi-lingual robot helpers can support caregivers.

Multi-lingual robot helpers

Mindy extends companionship and social interactions to those who may not speak English. Social Robots, like Mindy, will be helpful to caregivers or staff to communicate effectively in the language that is preferred by the older adults in their care.

The iPal2 robot currently has a choice of eight (8) languages for many of it’s basic operations. More apps and capabilities will be developed over time as demand warrants.

For more information, please contact us!

About the Author: Haroona Ijaz

Haroona leads operations at Social Robots and is passionate about improving the social well-being of senior citizens.