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Félix Doménech (left) in his living room with 'Fermín'. Salvador Salas
Fermín: the Malaga-developed robot created to help dependent people stay in their homes in Andalucía
Technology

Fermín: the Malaga-developed robot created to help dependent people stay in their homes in Andalucía

Félix Doménech is the first of fifteen residents in Malaga province to receive this automated assistant and he's already given it a name and taken it for a beer

Cristina Vallejo

Malaga

Monday, 29 April 2024, 09:37

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Félix Doménech is the first resident of Malaga province to have a robot that helps him to continue living on his own at home despite being 84% dependent. As he explained to SUR, an illness with a poor outcome left him in a wheelchair, a situation he has been in for a decade now. Félix, 64, and the robot, which he has christened 'Fermín', have already "known each other" for some time, because the device has had to learn to attend to his specific routines: "The idea is that the robot adapts to the needs of each user, not the other way around, which is why the robot is programmable, which closes any digital shortfall that may occur", said Antonio Pérez, the engineer contracted to the project.

The president of the Andalucía's regional government, Juanma Moreno, officially presented the robot to Doménech on Thursday last week. The handover took place at Félix's home in Puerto de la Torre, a street-level property perfectly adapted for home automation with his disability. This is just one part of the 'Living at Home' project that, as Juanma Moreno puts it, seeks for dependent people "to be able to live where they can best be" - that is, in their own homes, their normal surroundings.

Better than in a residence

"It is a model of home care in which people do not have to go to a nursing home, but the services are provided at home. This way the person does not leave their environment, their neighbourhood, their friends, their family, which is fundamental to them while still receiving care," said Salvador Merino, one of the project creators and vice-chancellor of the University of Malaga (UMA).

Félix will soon be joined by four other beneficiaries of the initiative. Over the course of this year, probably before the month of September, said Moreno, there will be a total of fifteen. "It is a project in which technology and social matters come together; this is where technology and social services go hand in hand to make people's lives easier," adds Moreno, also pointing out that the initiative is financed by European funds. "There is no greater satisfaction than to see how a decision improves the quality of life for people, especially those who need it most."

The mayor of Malaga Francisco de la Torre referred to the economics of this initiative, arguing that this type of support renders the care of dependent people more economically viable, making it possible for public care to reach more people at a time when we are faced with an increasingly ageing population. Be that as it may, he also acknowledged that "much remains to be done" in this regard.

Next to speak up was UMA's rector, Teodomiro López, emphasising how this is an example of the transfer of knowledge that, in this case, is not aimed at commercial interests, but at social intervention. He called it the third pillar of what a university should be, the other two being the transfer of knowledge (teaching) and the creation of knowledge (research).

The value of friendship

Salvador Cabello is a friend of Félix Doménech and talks about how good it is that his friend has the robot with him, as much for his own peace of mind as for that of Félix. For example, should he have an accident at home and fall, a video-call can be established, allowing Cabello to assess the seriousness of Félix's injuries, whether to call an ambulance or whether it is enough for someone to come to the house to help him up as nothing more serious has happened. That 'someone' can be Cabello, a neighbour or a relative as Doménech has a copious support network, much of it present at the official handover of the robot.

Furthermore, the robot can send alerts to Felix's relatives if the fridge hasn't been opened for a long time or if he hasn't left his room for days. Fermín also reminds him of medical appointments and prompts him when he has to take his medication. Félix jokes that maybe Fermín still needs to learn to play dominoes. He has even taken the robot out for a beer, although that confused it. Felix has listened to music and watched films on the robot's screen that also acts as the 'face' to this rather friendly contraption.

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