Movies and books are almost as valid as actual research. The best inventions often start with a compelling proof of concept. Science Fiction movies and books have lead many scientists and inventors into their fields, and into projects that have advanced and changed modern culture: Submarines, aerospace, robots, time travel (soon). The most recent fictional proof of concept for the future of care giving I’ve seen is a movie called Robot & Frank (2012, currently available for rental and streaming).
Robot & Frank is a near future science fiction movie about an aging man, who’s bouts of confusion, declining hygiene, occasional disorientation, and lack of stimulation worry his family, threaten his independence and safety. Their solution? Give Frank a child-sized, care giving robot. The robot’s primary objective is Frank’s health, which means his behaviors and activities adjust to what Frank is willing/wants to do. After a brief period of resistance, Frank realizes that his robot is the perfect sidekick, even if he does make him get out of bed at 7:30 am.
Frank begins to teach his robot how to pick locks, and starts planning a heist as we learn that Frank was a high-end Jewel thief until the age of 30. The writers cleverly side-step anti-law breaking programming in the robot by making Franks increasing physical and mental health a higher priority than upholding the law.
While artistic liberties in the representation of dementia and Alzheimer’s seem to be unavoidable for this, and most screenwriters, the rest of the movie hits several relevant topics on aging. Frank’s resistance to help and hinted medical non-compliance, and some negative societal attitudes towards the aging are also given a nod (even in how the Robot is programmed).
The filmmakers present a best case scenario of a man with a mild and transient dementia, and also one who is willing and able to connect to old .. um, hobbies? Most importantly, the story depicts something every family caregiver strives for, that balance where the individual and the care are empowering, not restrictive, where care increases health and function rather than dependence and decline. The movie present us with a future where safe one-on-one care is available and worry free. Where medical tracking and compliance seems less intrusive, more consistent, and unlimited. At the very least, this movie will make you want to get old, and to start knocking off banks – totally worth watching.
Robot & Frank trailer:
- Robot And Chimpanzee: It’s Evolution At Work (npr.org)
- Netflix Movie of the Day: Robot & Frank (goodsweep586.wordpress.com)