Research into Real-World: Robotics, AI Offer Better Life for Elderly

The burgeoning field of gerontechnology is getting a major lift from artificial intelligence.

Gerontechnology, which targets social wellness and physical independence among elderly populations, is getting a boost from robotics companies developing AI-based machines that provide a wide variety of benefits to older folks.

Recently, San Francisco played host to 6,000 attendees at the World Congress of Gerontology and Geriatrics, which for the first time featured a one-day Technology and Aging Track that saw companies, gerontologists, and entrepreneurs engaged in developing technology solutions to improve the lives of older adults.

At the event, it was discussed that gerontechnology needs to shift from a research-based science to an application-based one.

“We need a shift in research culture from science and innovation to a culture of innovative science that combines research excellence and real-world outcomes and impact,” said Andrew Sixsmith, Scientifc Director of the AGE-WELL Network of Centres of Excellence.

Robots like Paro, a fluffy harp seal, offers therapeutic services to elderly and helps improve their socialization. The Japan-born robotic animal has been found to reduce both patient and caregiver stress and in some cases even lowers the need for medication.

“Technology can support older adults through a variety of activities and tasks, helping to restore their independence and dignity, while giving families piece of mind,” said Alex Mihailidis, CEO of the AGE-WELL Network of Centres of Excellence.

Robots, he notes, are more persuasive than, say, an iPad—which is a vital component to altering behavior in a positive way.

The grand vision of gerontechnology is about extending life—but, just as importantly, it’s about improving the quality of that life.

While there are serious security and privacy risks associated with robotics and artificial intelligence, recent advances in technology show great promise in changing elder care for the better.