The advancement in artificial intelligence and chatbots has come at a perfect time to assist senior citizens in an aging population.
They are the generation that tech forgot. The age group constantly trying to catch up while the online revolution continues to gather pace. But when it comes to artificial intelligence, senior citizens could stand to benefit the most from the latest technological advancements.
Confronted with an aging population and the associated costs, it is more important than ever to advance methods to better support the elderly. In addition, senior citizens’ interests in adopting to new technology show a potentially lucrative untapped market for innovators.
One answer could be in the form of artificial intelligence and chatbots. With fewer caregivers available, robust chatbots with natural language processing (NLP) abilities could prove the perfect companions for older people. Chatbots can not only fill a void for lonely pensioners but they can remind people to take their medication, store previous conversations to help people with Alzheimer’s via memory games. Furthermore, artificial intelligence and connected devices can observe an elderly person’s health and alert doctors concerning changes in their conditions and potential emergencies.
Artificial intelligence: filling the void
While robots cannot yet replace human interaction, they can fill the void for an aging population in need of an extra pair of hands. According to Age U.K., nearly half of all people over the age of 75 live alone, while more than a third do not speak to anyone in an average day.
Meanwhile, there is a growing concern over the number of older people and the alarming lack of carers to look after them. With one in five Americans expected to be a senior citizen by 2030, the shortfall in nursing could be twice as large as any other since the mid-1960s. With a lack of nurses to fill the void, artificial intelligence might be needed to step in and help.
Chatbots: the new best friend for senior citizens?
Bots can prove valuable to assisting senior citizens, both as companions and also as tools to maintain their physical and mental health.
Chatbots are already holding everyday conversations with the elderly. In San Francisco, a group of older adults is engaging with a device called Elliq. The device uses machine learning to understand the preferences of the owner in order to recommend activities.
Besides talking, ElliQ also uses non-verbal forms of communication. For example, when family members send photos on Facebook, ElliQ can show them on the screen before tilting its head towards the person to “share the experience” similar to when a grandchild might show off photos in person. Rather than forming concrete relationships with machines, these techniques make content more accessible for elderly people while ensuring they do not feel alone while enjoying them.
Chatbots and natural language processing
Arguably the most important feature is the ability of the chatbot to recognize natural language and to retain information. In providing conversations, chatbots will have to understand various forms of the same question to have a chance of forming a bond with their owner. For example, a simple question such as “How are you today?” can be asked in a variety of ways. The answer to this is a chatbot that uses strong NLP technology and is constantly learning.
In addition, many chatbots currently struggle with context, such a crucial feature when it comes to holding a conversation. Many can answer a basic question but after that, it is impossible to judge how the dialogue will develop from there. After the above greeting and a fitting response, an individual could go on to broach a variety of subjects. Being able to retain the information provided in order to produce a compelling conversation or to even ask about how activities went is crucial in establishing rapport. It is also vital that machines can understand what is said to them and record the answers to specific questions like, “how do you feel?”
It’s not all about talking robots
The ability of chatbots to communicate might be the more eye-catching feature but artificial intelligence can also monitor the health of senior citizens and even alert medical staff to emergencies.
Researchers at the University of Missouri have developed sensors which ensure senior citizens can be monitored around the clock to determine how serious a fall is or even to predict one. Depth sensors mounted on walls could detect subtle changes in elderly people including walking patterns or an increased shakiness. The result was nurses could suggest necessary treatment options sooner, meaning pensioners were able to live independently for four years compared to a national average of 22 months.
In addition to physical frailties, sensors can identify any developing mental health difficulties or potential safety concerns such as ovens left on or doors left open. Scientists at Washington State University have utilized sensors to gather data about how residents are communicating and moving which can identify depression or dementia. In the not too distant future, we could see algorithms developed to predict changes in behavior to prevent emotional issues from worsening.
Artificial intelligence: helping the helpers
With the caregiver support ratio expected to drop from 7 potential caregivers for every high-risk person over 80 to less than 1 in 3 by 2050, these advancements in technology could not have come at a better time.
Artificial intelligence will not replace nurses in the near future, but they will be able to take on many of new healthcare roles to ease the strain. Simple requirements such as providing company for senior citizens and monitoring their health will prove invaluable in the coming years.
Artificial intelligence will certainly be providing support to both the caregivers and the elderly, improving the standard of living in our modern society and helping to stem a potential crisis in elderly care.
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