Many people think of long-term care planning as preparing to transition a loved one to a nursing home or assisted living facility. However, government programs have shifted to providing more resources to help seniors age in place.
New York is set to debut a new program to help isolated seniors remain in their homes.
Robot companions for seniors
The New York State Office for Aging plans to give more than 800 older New York residents an artificial intelligence-powered robot companion. The goal of the program is to help seniors access nonmedical support services that make it easier for them to remain in their communities and avoid publicly financed long-term care.
The robots, called ElliQ, work similarly to personal assistants, such as Alexa or Siri. However, they are more proactive and can initiate interactions and provide assistance such as medication reminders or help with contacting loved ones. The robot can adapt its behavior and personality based on its interactions with the user.
Reasons for the program
Older adults who live alone are particularly susceptible to loneliness which can worsen their overall health and wellbeing. While robots can not replace human interaction, some studies have suggested that robot companions, which have long been in use in countries such as Japan, can reduce feelings of isolation.
The use of robots as companions for older Americans is a controversial topic. Some people believe it indicates the low value that Americans place on elderly people. Others believe it provides a cost-effective way to help seniors who want to remain in their homes avoid the need to transition to long-term care facilities.