How might AI change aging in place for seniors?

While aging in place is a dominant preference for seniors when compared to residing in a dedicated care facility, there are concerns that come with it. One of the biggest concerns is protecting seniors against feelings of isolation, which can be a serious threat to the well-being and cognitive function of older people.

But emerging artificial intelligence (AI) technology could be put to use in efforts to mitigate concerns about isolation, according to a new article published by HomeCare.

One vendor active in this space is Intuition Robotics, which introduced an AI-powered home care companion tool called “ElliQ” to the market. The company previously engaged in a partnership with the New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) in 2022 to bring ElliQ into the homes of more than 800 older adults throughout the state.

By the following year, NYSOFA was touting the success of bringing the technology into the fold due to its positive impact on feelings of loneliness and isolation by New York seniors.

Dor Skuler, CEO of Intuition Robotics and creator of ElliQ, told HomeCare that AI has the potential to serve an important purpose that not enough younger workers are seeking out.

“There’s just not enough young people willing and able — not to come in once a month for a home visit, but to be there all day long,” Skuler said. “That’s what I think AI is really well designed to do, assuming you understand the customer extremely well and you’re able to build an AI that is empathetic and can actually build a relationship.”

Skuler spoke to HomeCare from Las Vegas, where he was presenting the newest version of ElliQ at the CES 2024 show, formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show.

The challenges presented by loneliness and isolation in seniors are also being addressed by AARP, the preeminent aging advocacy group.

“Today’s older adults are harnessing the power of A.I. to transform their lives and embrace new technologies that bring companionship, knowledge and connection into their daily routines,” Rick Robinson, vice president and general manager of the AgeTech Collaborative from AARP, said in an ElliQ press release.

“As we continue to combat the epidemic of loneliness among seniors, solutions like ElliQ play a vital role, offering not just innovation, but also a lifeline to a brighter, more connected future where our aging population can enjoy the full spectrum of opportunities that the digital age has to offer.”

One key difference between ElliQ and more traditional electronic assistant devices like Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s Nest is that ElliQ will engage with its primary user unprompted. Google or Amazon devices typically require a “wake word” to trigger voice command interactivity.

“It’s hard to build a relationship with a machine that’s waiting for you to prompt it with a command,” Skuler told HomeCare. “Like, how close can you get to your Alexa when the interactions are, ‘Alexa set a timer, Alexa what’s the weather like?’”

Despite real concerns that people have for generative AI becoming more common in everyday life, experts seem to agree that the technology is a welcome new player in this instance.

“The concept of an ‘AI caregiver’ may seem futuristic,” aging-in-place technology expert Lori Orlov said in a 2023 report. “But given staffing shortages today, it is feasible and works. AI analysis is derived from cameras, sensors or voice patterns on the front lines of care, alerting staff to issues based on patient health and status and history.”

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