Thanks to recent advancements in medicine, humans are living longer. Today’s population of senior citizens, also known as the golden-ager community, is growing.
According to a recent report from the World Health Organization, the average life expectancy is increasing globally. We will enjoy more days, but there is a crisis brewing. This turn of events has already begun to affect many of us.
Extended life raises the need to provide care to our aging loved ones who may be experiencing a number of conditions. The current onset of dementia is occurring sooner and diagnosed cases are climbing in numbers. Many seniors are experiencing earlier loss of their cognitive abilities. And in developed countries, there is a growing demand for more memory care and assisted-living facilities.
Here’s the good news: bots can help.
This past year, advancements in messaging platforms have brought “bots” to everyone’s mobile devices. Voice-activated personal assistants have also found places in our homes with their power to understand what we say. Devices such as Amazon’s Echo have freed many from searching by text, allowing a more natural way of finding information and getting basic tasks done. These amazing tools have created a new market for streamlined operations of all kinds, bringing a swiftness to practical endeavors that gives us as individuals more time and energy to do what we need to do.
In the same manner, virtual assistants, bots, and speaking devices are here for seniors and their caregivers, with new methods to meet the objective of aging with adequate support and dignity.
During this year and the next, bots will provide assistance for golden-agers. These bots will help keep them on track day to day, offering verbal guidance for daily tasks and chores. Regular socialization is also a human need. Interactive human-like communication will help to address the loneliness that many elderly people experience. And with continued improvement in artificial intelligence, the level of comfort and companionship provided could be exceptional.
Imagine this scene:
Google Home rests on the nightstand next to your sleeping parent. From the start of the day, your loved one is guided through their sequence of activities: the assistant wakes them up, reminds them to take their medication, and gently suggests that they remember to change their clothes. As the day progresses, the bot assistant ensures that your loved one is dressed and ready for appointments, reminded of chores, and persuaded to eat their meals.
The caregiver also has unmet needs today. The burdens a caregiver endures can be draining and expensive. They face daily challenges that sap their time and energy. And it will only get worse unless we can find a way to help them as well. Which leads to our second bit of good news. Bots can help manage an overloaded schedule, book medical appointments, coordinate the delivery of meals, and look after the elderly person using video and other sensors. The bot can then communicate to the primary caregiver as certain tasks are completed, alleviating the stress of uncertainty that many caregivers face when physically distant from their loved one.
This leads to the compelling economic reason why a solution is needed for elderly care. As most caregivers will continue working beyond the age of 60, they will be unable to stay home and give 100% care to their aging loved ones. Most caregivers are unable to afford the cost of placing their loved ones in assisted-living communities. In the USA, the current costs for such programs can be as high as $8,000 per month. And these fees are not covered until the aging person’s assets are exhausted. If the children are working to makes ends meet, they cannot afford to pick up the expense for assisted living, and care will be beyond the budget of most of those who want to provide for their parents, grandparents or great-grandparents.
Bots will be far less expensive, providing basic caregiving, nurturing and task management for loved ones while the primary caregivers are at work or away.
And, wouldn’t it be wonderful if the bot could speak in the voice of a loved one? Recognition of a familiar voice would provide security and comfort.
Living longer should remain a reward for a life spent well. And this amazing new technology can help make that possible.
Copyright (c) 2017, Emma Davila, All rights reserved.