How AI is revolutionizing elder care

Jeff Rowe
As the world’s population ages, healthcare professionals and systems are increasingly turning to AI technologies for daily elder healthcare management.

Within a little over 30 years, almost one-in-four humans will be aged 60 years and older, double today’s share.  Not surprisingly, healthcare stakeholders understand how dramatically the care of an aging population is bound to impact the healthcare system, and many are already anticipating the role AI can play.

Indeed, according to a recent in Synced, an AI industry journal, “the AI in elder care market is expected to exceed US$5.5 billion by 2022, and will grow into one of AI’s most important support roles in societies of the future.”

Looking around the daily life of many elders, it doesn’t take long to realize AI’s potential to assist.  For example, the writer notes, one constant challenge for elders is keeping medications straight in order to minimize the risk of adverse reactions. To that end, using smartphone cameras and an AI algorithm to monitor medication-taking, “New York-based AiCure provides a smartphone app that checks whether users are adhering to doctor’s prescriptions and ensures they know what to do to manage their conditions.”

Similarly, IBM offers elder care solutions seek to provide seniors with the peace of mind that would come from having a private nurse by using “movement sensors in corridors, flush-detectors in toilets and bed sensors for monitoring sleep, etc. Any significant deviation from the ordinary activity patterns can issue an automated alarm to authorized nurses or physicians.”

The system can also track elders’ health indexes to proactively identify risks, and by leveraging machine learning algorithms to analyze historical data, researchers can also discover unknown and predictive connections, such as “the correlation between irregular nighttime toilet trips and risk of falls. Overall the system seeks to identify early warning signs that might need extra attention.”

Finally, an Israeli company has developed an “AI-powered companion robot can hold conversations with patients, remind them to take their medications, and lead them in light physical activities to improve physical and mental health.” Dubbed “ElliQ,” the robot can also “be integrated with various messaging and social media platforms, enabling users to send and receive texts and pictures without fussing with a cellphone.”

There are, of course, numerous unique challenges to developing AI solutions for elder, not least of which is teaching a population whose learning and cognitive abilities may have been degraded by age how to use the new tools.

Nonetheless, given a rapidly aging population, the demand for AI-assisted healthcare tools will probably grow just as quickly.