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Growing Old in Robotic Cities

Jaana Parviainen, University of Tampere, Finland
Tuomo Särkikoski, University of Tampere, Finland

In the paper, we discuss mobility and immobility as cultural values that characterise the lifestyles of retired old adults in the context of the digitalization and robotisation of urban environments. Using the term ’kinetic values’, we mean how living on the move or being immobile are seen to represent either positive or negative attributes depending on an individual’s age, ethnic background, social class, gender or education. By using EU strategies on the developments of smart cities and robotisation as illustrative research material, we consider how the meanings of mobility and immobility signify aging and segregate elderly people into different social groups. This implies, for example, that ‘grey panthers’ may designate a group of active seniors adapting easily new technologies while more immobile and fragile older citizens are seen rooted in routines resisting new devices. Applying the phenomenology of movement and recent discussions on service robotics, we examine assistive robotics and what kind of urban choreographies it can provide for elderly people. We come to the conclusion that the reconfiguration of robotic systems may leave some elderly people “imprisoned” and socially trapped in their smart homes within robotized and monitoring environments.