The latest developments in artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented voice technology are one way to help older populations live more independently for longer in their own homes, while providing support for their remote caregiver.
With schools reopening and the Government encouraging people to commute back to work following the coronavirus pandemic, the UK is slowly coming out of isolation - but not everyone.
With total cases nearing 40,000 in the UK and 50% of deaths occurring in those aged 80 and over, the older population and vulnerable groups who live alone will rightly remain isolated from the outside world.
Not being able to be physically present for older loved ones can be incredibly tough for both the caregiver and family member. Anxiety and stress are common side effects, and this is only heightened by the pressures of lockdown. Furthermore, the person in need of care may have an illness such as a dementia, potentially causing them to forget to take medication and thus spiral into further illness and care complications.
A recent study found that caregivers in the UK spent more than 14 hours per week on average caring for older family members during lockdown – with most of that time spent checking-in to ensure care needs were being met and that isolation wasn’t causing loneliness.
No one knows when the pandemic will eventually subside and when lockdown will officially end – even now we are seeing local lockdowns spring up across the UK. Therefore, caregivers need an in-home solution to ensure their loved ones are being supported and monitored during prolonged periods of isolation when they can’t be present.
AI helps older people live independently for longer
Indeed, the Government advertised a £500,000 fund to find digital ways to support people who need help during the crisis, and technology has proved to be a key driver in finding solutions to current restrictions in movement.
It is important that new technology has the human touch and that technology providers take control and proactively converse with the user. Thanks to advancements in machine-learning capabilities, we can provide a contextual experience, meaning conversations feel natural rather than robotic or one way.
This new technology constantly learns about the users behaviours and lifestyle patterns enabling it to provide a bespoke relationship with its senior user – providing proactive companionship as well as responding to their requests. For example, it can detect the mood of a person from their voice and centre responses around that, whilst providing timely prompts around important things such as medication.
Also, equipped with sensors, technology companies can call for help if someone falls, and can remind them to take medications throughout the day. In the future, augmented voice technology will also connect and control other smart devices in the home.
The idea is to offer a small, discrete, personal task force to deal with the day-to-day care needs of an older relative, whilst keeping them connected to their loved ones and community. The caregiver can stay connected via a smart app, with daily performance logs and push notifications enabling them to get peace of mind.
Overall, everyone wants security, comfort, health and wellbeing for their loved ones, especially in the midst of a crisis. And with the number of people in Europe aged 80 and over expected to more than double by 2070, from 29 million to over 60 million, the need to support and monitor our ageing family members will be crucial in the post-pandemic world.
Phil Marshman is the founder and CEO of Sentai, a British technology start-up using innovative artificial intelligence to help independently support older people