Artificial Intelligence: An Emerging Tool in Senior Health

Over the past decade, technology has brought astounding advances to the daily lives of average people. In the coming years, industry observers expect significant changes for the aging population thanks to one specific type of technology: artificial intelligence.

Many believe that through a variety of applications, artificial intelligence — or AI — may offer improved health care, transportation, companionship and other benefits for seniors. However, scientists readily admit they cannot fully predict the changes that AI may spark.

As part of our commitment to research and innovation that can affect quality of life for seniors, Elder Care Alliance monitors the latest advances in AI. How do we expect AI to impact older adults’ health and well-being in the 2020s and beyond?

AI Shows Potential, Brings Questions

Experts note that AI shows tremendous potential — especially once entrepreneurs and established businesses can find ways to reduce the costs associated with its use. As the U.S. population shifts to an older demographic, a market indisputably exists for AI to assist the aging population.

As a key technology that boosts everything from advanced medical devices to drones and smartphone apps, AI holds significant promise as a tool for providing care. Family care partners currently shoulder much of the burden of caring for aging loved ones who remain in their homes, but AI-powered sensors and devices may take on a leading role over the next few years.

Experts point out, however, that AI comes with many unknowns as it begins to solve problems that in the past required human intelligence.

Beyond the Hype: Next Steps

AI has loomed as an emerging technology for years, but practical applications for the field of aging have recently come into sharper focus. The market for AI technologies is booming, with multiple large companies as well as startups using AI in products and services.

Voice-activated assistants such as Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa serve as harbingers of things to come. Experts expect the combination of robotics and AI to play a significant role in aging care, but companies will need to strike the right balance for seniors to embrace the technologies.

While robots can perform many tasks currently provided by humans — and will have even more abilities in the future — they also can lead to elders becoming more isolated and lacking human interactions.

The future of AI in aging care remains undetermined, but it will likely include some combination of health-monitoring sensors, robotics, voice-activated digital assistants, and other technologies. In the meantime, it is critical that advocates for older adults educate themselves about the potential benefits — and pitfalls — of AI and encourage developers to keep seniors’ privacy, safety and well-being top of mind.