The New York State Office for the Aging has started a new initiative to introduce companion robots into the homes of seniors. These robots go beyond regular virtual assistants to provide seniors with proactive support.
The New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) will introduce companion robots into senior citizens’ homes as part of a campaign to combat social isolation.
The way that government organizations work to help seniors bridge the digital divide has changed since the COVID-19 pandemic began. To combat social isolation, local offices for the elderly in New York have even recently resorted to animatronic pets.
Intuition Robotics’ ElliQ, a product that uses AI to provide proactive care for seniors’ needs, is the new robotic companion that NYSOFA has chosen.
The gadget is essentially a tablet that docks next to a virtual assistant. When addressed by name, the device responds to voice commands. For instance, a user might ask “ElliQ, what’s the weather today?”
According to NYSOFA Public Information Director Roger Noyes, the initiative, which was unveiled last month, began with a demonstration for the state’s 59 county area agencies on aging. Case managers will have to decide which senior citizens on their caseload would benefit from this technology as a next step.
To see whether the ElliQ device can help improve outcomes, these decisions are based on interest, age, and a thorough assessment to screen for social isolation. Outcomes will be assessed through self-reporting, metrics obtained through the platform, and engaging relationships with case managers.
This summer, it is intended to start the setup procedure with specific users.
According to Noyes, the device’s distinctive feature is that it asks the user questions using AI. For instance, if a user reports having trouble sleeping, that information will be saved, and ElliQ may alter the prompts or questions to explore this and look into other potential factors, such as dehydration or chronic pain, to see if they can be improved.
According to Grace Andruszkiewicz, director of marketing at Intuition Robotics, if indeed the user tells the device, “I’m going to go walk the dog,” she has learned that they have a dog and may ask the user if they have plans to walk the dog the following day.
According to her, the product combines proactiveness and compassion to create an assistant that, as their relationship grows closer, the user may come to think of as a sort of friend.
The device will activate interactions that are goal-driven after the user sets goals, such as goals for their health and well-being. ElliQ might advise things like breathing exercises or bedtime rituals, for instance.
According to Andruszkiewicz, the target audience is seniors because there is such significant potential for effect. Demographic changes like the aging baby boomer population, increasing life expectancy, and a declining birth rate that reduces the number of caregivers show that many people could benefit.
She claims that the state can provide seniors with more than 800 devices. The company will introduce both the staff of neighborhood foraging agencies and the end-users.
Along with a night mode that dims the screen, the device also has settings that can be specifically tailored for users who have hearing or vision loss. In addition to a rotary dial that possibly older adults are more accustomed to, volume can be changed using voice commands.
While some of the office’s initiatives were already underway before the COVID-19 pandemic, Noyes explained that the subsequent closure of senior centers caused NYSOFA to reevaluate the resource delivery system: “We realized that there were all of these technology forms that could fill in the gap and provide a supplement for individuals that are facing social isolation.”
The data the agency has gathered through these initiatives, according to Noyes, refutes the assertion that older adults do not use technology and highlights the value of technology for this group.
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