To fight loneliness, New York State gives seniors a “robot companion”

As a social animal, people will inevitably have moments of loneliness in their day-to-day life. According to a Harvard University survey in October 2020, more than one-third of Americans reported severe loneliness,

For many seniors, the lack of companionship makes the risk of loneliness even worse, combined with the impact of the pandemic in recent years. Loneliness can be said to be a problem that cannot be ignored in the lives of many elderly people. To this end, New York State officials have come up with a plan that allows the elderly to obtain companionship, and the companionship is provided by "robot companions."

▲ Picture from: Unsplash

The New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA), in collaboration with local partners, selected ElliQ, the “nursing companion” from Israeli startup Intuition Robotics, which has provided the robotic companion to more than 800 seniors.

One part of ElliQ is a simple robot with a microphone and speaker that lights up and can be controlled by voice, and another part has a touchscreen tablet that can make video calls.

▲ Picture from: Intuition Robotics

Unlike other smart technologies and products, ElliQ is designed for seniors, so it operates in a mode that not only responds to commands, but also initiates conversations and suggests activities for the user. It builds the context and informs subsequent conversations through artificial intelligence (AI), thereby establishing a relationship between the user and the AI.

▲ Picture from: Intuition Robotics

Since the user is an elderly person, special attention is also required in terms of health. To this end, ElliQ provides sleep relaxation exercises, suggested physical and relaxation exercises, in-depth nutrition-related conversations, medication management through timer settings and reminders, and more, tailored to each user's situation.

▲ Picture from: Intuition Robotics

In order to proactively reduce the risk of falls and respond in the unfortunate event of a fall, ElliQ will proactively contact a friend or family member in the address book if a user reports that they experience severe pain or discomfort. It also has basic fall prevention strategies, including physical and mental exercise, daily checks…

ElliQ provides seniors with support to live more independently in addition to services. Judging from the recent launch in the commercial sector, the participation of the elderly is not low, with users having an average of 20 interactions per day.

▲ Picture from: Intuition Robotics

Greg Olsen, director of the New York State Office of Aging (NYSOFA), said: "ElliQ was designed with the input of older adults, and there may be misconceptions, but older adults are very open to new technology to improve their lives, especially when they see it. It's when it's designed for older people to meet their needs."

▲ Picture from: Intuition Robotics

He also mentioned: "For those who experience some form of loneliness and want to age in place, ElliQ is a great addition to traditional forms of social interaction and professional or home caregiver support. This product does a lot of things to Improve health, fight loneliness, and improve overall well-being and independence for users.”

▲ Picture from: The Washington Post

It is worth mentioning that, in addition to the "robot companion" such as ElliQ, NYSOFA will also provide new aging services at multiple levels. Examples include the Animated Pet Program, which provides lifelike companion pets for seniors; a statewide accessible support platform for home caregivers that provides expert-led intensive care competency training; ride-sharing services designed for seniors; and counselors are available Leading online community of courses and services…

▲ Picture from: Facebook

Robots are more and more widely used today, and in the new technological era, artificial intelligence can also replace people to accompany them. It is hoped that the elderly with "robot companions" can really eliminate loneliness and become healthier and happier in this special companionship.

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