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Digital Perspectives
New views. Applied now.

Digital Perspectives

New Views. Applied Now.

June 26, 2018
AI and caring for the elderly
By: Laetitia Cailleteau

New digital technologies are normally associated with millennials—and of course that makes sense as they are the first digitally-native generation. But where does that leave the elderly?

What role could technology play in improving their lives and more specifically in addressing the looming care crisis? Think about it: The population over 75 is projected to double in the next 30 years. Care homes face a funding crisis. And perhaps most importantly, research shows that they would prefer to remain independent in their own homes as long as possible.

We started thinking about how we could create an AI-powered solution that might help to meet many of these challenges head on. CogX2018 gave us a great opportunity to showcase and explain what we’ve developed over the past year or so. Here’s a quick summary.

We’ve heard a lot about how AI will make the greatest difference to our lives when it’s built around real human needs and augments what people do. That’s at the heart of the approach for our Accenture Independent Living Platform solution. This is all about using Amazon Alexa holistically to address elderly care needs through the power of voice and natural language processing.

It’s designed to complement real-world care, providing support for the mind through video calling, reminders, hobbies and entertainment. For the body it offers activity tracking, exercise videos, medicine management and health appointments. And for the home it covers simple banking and financial management and simple shopping lists. Importantly, too, the Accenture Independent Living Platform shoulders some of the burden on carers by giving them a monitoring portal and notifies them about an elderly person’s activities.

One of the big innovations we’ve introduced is taking an ecosystem approach to Alexa skills. So rather than having to navigate individual tasks, we’ve integrated everything with a human-centred approach that learns and develops as it goes.

We started thinking about how we could create an AI-powered solution that might help to meet many of these challenges head on. CogX2018 gave us a great opportunity to showcase and explain what we’ve developed over the past year or so. Here’s a quick summary.

The feedback from the pilot we operated with Age UK London has been overwhelmingly positive. While we deliberately did not set out with the idea of creating a companion for elderly people, for many users that’s what it’s turned out to be. As one user It's to said, “It’s like having a friend in the room to speak to.” And that goes to the heart of one of the biggest problems the elderly face: loneliness and social isolation.

We’ve now expanded the pilot to address the needs of elderly people living in local authority communities such as Hanover Housing Association. The solution has proved to be really effective in helping to reinforce a sense of community and connection between residents. Features we’ve built for this include reminders about events and announcements which mean people don’t miss out on chances to socialise.

We’re also exploring how the solution can be adapted to support the lives of people with dementia. We’ve got through to the final stages of the Challenge Dementia Prize from the NHS Essex Partnership University Trust, with a set of dementia-specific Alexa skills that address some of the most common challenges faced by those in the early stages of this disease. For example, we’ve created Memory Box to help people retain treasured moments, picture, stories, music and so on from their lives. Other applications include GPS tracking, home security reminders and alerts for relatives and carers.

Overall, we think we’re making some really exciting progress towards rethinking the role that technology can play in supporting the elderly. It’s all part of an inclusive AI agenda, that makes sure that new technologies can benefit as many people as possible. It shows that there’s no such thing as the digital generation. If we develop AI responsibly, we can all be digital and reap the benefits.

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