Instructor: David Schuff, Section 003

AI for the Elderly

As the population of the elderly increases, the need for technology has been steadily progressing to assist those who need it. The basic categories that affect these people are healthcare and lifestyle. For healthcare, there are medical technologies that have been introduced to assist. These tools will most likely require the help of an elderly person’s children or caregiver, so there are some barriers to entry. Additionally, there will not be as many private care options, as explained by the “caregiving cliff”, but AI could offer a cheaper alternative to some of the technological issues that occur. For example, the 3506 project, Memory Lane is a product that is geared to those with memory loss, and specifically the elderly. Although these technologies may be difficult for the elderly to understand, it can bring families together and create stronger bonds and connections. A drawback of these applications is also the cost of the products. This can create a socioeconomic divide between those who can afford it and those who cannot. Do you think that the elderly will be able to overcome the AI learning curve? Will caregivers be replaced by AI in terms of technological advances? How do you think AI will advance in the future to aid the younger population?

7 Responses to AI for the Elderly

  • This is an excellent topic. I know a number of older individuals as my mom lives in a 55+ community and one of their biggest fears is being unable to take care of themselves and being alone and unable to get help if they need it. This sort of AI would be perfect for that sort of situation. I do worry though about that socioeconomic divide. I feel that none of the people in my mom’s community could afford this sort of thing. Perhaps health care can step in and help fund it as AI treatment and assistance could likely reduce severity of health care claims in a big way.

  • This was a very interesting article you provided, especially because it is something I can relate to, having been a Project Manager in 3535 for the Memory Lane 3506 project last semester. One of the major concerns with that project in particular was exactly the question you have posed, if the elderly will be able to overcome the AI learning curve. I think part of the beauty of AI, especially in the forms in which you have mentioned the elderly population would mostly be consuming it, is that there is not actually much of a learning curve at all. For example, with virtual assistants, mostly it involves just speaking in a natural language, and the device can recognize what you are saying because of AI. That being said, I do recognize that it will probably take a bit more time for the elderly population in general to get used to the idea of virtual assistants and similar technologies, but I definitely think they have the capability to overcome that learning curve. While these technologies can enhance the lives of the elderly specifically, I do not think caregivers will totally be replaced by AI in terms of technological advances, because – at least as far as I can tell – there are certain things that require human contact and skill. While AI can enhance the job of caregivers tremendously, there are some aspects of the position that could not be replaced by AI. Lastly, I do see the value of AI in other age brackets as well, so in reference to your last question I do think AI will advance in the future to aid the younger population. AI is present in the lives of the younger population in many ways already, and perhaps AI in a caregiver sense is the next step.

  • Leah, I think you bring up a good idea of bringing a new technology into a not so “tech savvy” generation. The elderly generation is growing and will hit an drastic increase as there are approximately 76.4 baby boomers currently entering the elderly generation. Companies are currently being challenged to come up with AI uses for this growing generation. Like Bridgette stated we got to see a first-hand example of AI in the elderly generation, through SoundMind intelligence. What they are doing using Alexa to enable elderly people is something I have experience seeing at my internship over the summer. At Merck pharmaceuticals we were experimenting with way Alexa can interact with our patients. We were trial running different features like daily pill reminders to make sure medication was being taken to Alexa asking them how they felt that day. I think what a lot of companies are doing is building on the assistant feature of AI and there won’t be a reduction is personnel as they will always need to be there for the elderly. AI for the elderly has big potential, if companies can properly utilize it.

  • Leah,

    You bring up an excellent point about the challenge for the elderly to overcome the AI learning curve. I do think that this is possible, due to the natural interaction that takes place between users and the technologies, like speaking to a virtual assistant, that enable quick adaptation to the piece of technology. However, while this technology is easy to use, I do not think it has the capability of replacing the personnel who take care of the elderly. Many of these individuals are medically trained or have specialties to fit the individual needs of their patient that may not be replaceable by AI technology.

  • I think there is so much room for growth and improvement in terms of how technology can help elderly people. I do not think present day elderly people will overcome the AI learning curve because technology has advanced so fast that they have struggled to keep up with technologies that seem basic to millennials. They did not grow up with the technology that we did, so AI is probably too foreign of a concept for many of them to grasp. I also do not think caregivers will ever be completely replaced by technology because people will not be comfortable with a robot being the only thing taking care of them. However, I do think robotics can be a huge help to human caregivers. There are a lot of everyday tasks robots can help with so that elderly people who are capable of caring for themselves, but need assistance with some things can continue living in their homes. This will allow them to keep a sense of independence and hold off having to move into assisted living.

  • Hi Leah,

    This is a really interesting topic and I think you made a lot of good points. I think with the learning curve and high costs currently this will not be a technology that has an immediate impact. But I would imagine 10-20 years from now this will shape the way elders are cared for because we will have an elderly population who is used to using technology and I am sure costs will be able to be brought down a little bit by then. On a personal note, I do find it a little frightening that technology like this might enable many to not have to personally care for and spend time with their parents/grandparents as they become sick. I feel like this might not be a great path ethically but the business need definitely is there.

  • Hi Leah,
    I think something else to consider is the elderly’s willingness to adopt this technology. I think you will find a lot of resistance from this demographic, especially in a field where, traditionally, a human touch is valued. I think this is something that could be impactful in the close future, however right now there may be quite a bit of backlash. Many elderly people fear technology and are often the main demographic inhibiting major technological growth in our society.

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