How AI Changes the Way We Care for Seniors

But computers can't replace the human touch

Key Takeaways

  • AI-guided technology is increasingly being used to track isolated seniors at home.
  • Remote monitoring technology can predict health issues and ensure that the elderly are getting the care they need.
  • Some experts say that technology could be misused to replace human care.
An elderly couple having a consultation with a Virtual Reality healthcare professional.

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Artificial intelligence (AI) technology is helping to keep track of seniors, but some experts express concern that computers could eventually replace human care. 

CarePredict, a type of smartwatch, can track what someone is doing by analyzing their gestures.  A caregiver can be alerted if someone isn’t eating, for example. Robotic care bots also can help families communicate with elderly relatives. 

"But we really should not become dependent on care bots or believe that they are doing a job equivalent to a human," Brian Patrick Green, a director of technology ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, said in an email interview. 

"Our elderly deserve to get all of the human care that all people deserve, no matter what stage of life they are in. Good human care is best in the context of caring relationships. This is what elderly people have deserved throughout all of history, and they still deserve it now."

Labor Shortages Drive AI Growth

A growing number of companies are using technology to monitor and help older adults. It’s part of a trend to replace labor with a combination of monitoring devices and robotics devices in many industries, Eric Rosenblum, a managing partner at Tsingyuan Ventures, a firm that invests in startups focusing on AI, said in an email interview.

"Eldercare will be a big part of this trend—the eldercare market is extremely labor-intensive with armies of low-wage workers and is data-intensive as patients are constantly being measured and probed," he added. "There is a drive to install software and robotic systems to replace a portion of labor."

"Human interaction is especially important for seniors that lack other opportunities to interact with other people."

Many new technologies aim to establish an early-warning system that would warn of potential dangers to older people, Rosenblum said.

"A lot of healthcare system costs happen because small problems are not detected early," he added. "The small problem grows into a big problem that necessitates an emergency room visit or a highly invasive procedure. The goal of a lot of AI systems is to do better data analysis to act as an early-warning system to catch and treat issues quickly."

In the future, faster networking technology could allow for more sophisticated ways to monitor the elderly at home. The proposed 10G network could help doctors monitor patients from anywhere in real-time, "giving people, including the elderly, peace of mind that they’re living a healthier life," according to a statement by The Internet & Television Association, an industry group backing 10G. 

A Virtual Assistant

The company MyndYou offers an AI-powered virtual care assistant called MyEleanor.  

AI-based technology solutions are helping monitor many seniors at home, then triage and prioritize outreach and follow up from dedicated care managers, Ruth Poliakine Baruchi, the founder and CEO of MyndYou, said in an email interview.  

An elderly person in a wheelchair, using a VR headset alone.

PixelsEffect / Getty Images

"There’s a growing number of home-based and wearable devices that monitor and provide feedback in real-time on an individual’s health status," Baruchi added.  "By adding an automated yet personalized and regular touchpoint, we have nearly unlimited capacity to respond to the growing demand for keeping our seniors well and happy in their own homes."

Baruchi said that in an ideal world, the children and grandchildren of seniors would check on them daily. "But this ideal is far from reality in many cases," she added. 

Even though seniors know they’re talking to an interactive, automated bot, they also know there’s a care manager behind the scenes who can respond quickly to any concerns they raise, Baruchi said. "This provides a sense of care and comfort to seniors who need it," she added. 

AI-guided bots like MyEleanor can help provide better data analysis that can improve the quality of life for patients while reducing medical costs, Rosenblum said.  

"The con is that there may be less human and expert interaction," he added. "As we turn to data analysis systems and computer vision and robotics, it will be at the expense of humans checking in on the patients regularly. Human interaction is especially important for seniors that lack other opportunities to interact with other people."

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