Robot Roomies

New Tech May Relieve Elder Isolation


Approximately a third of those older than 65 and half of elders at least 85 live alone, as do many people with illnesses and mental disorders. All can suffer from feelings of profound loneliness. Emerging virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies provide avenues to alleviate such isolation, instilling contentment, peace of mind, enrichment, fun, a sense of companionship and contributing to physical and mental health.

Instead of passively watching TV, seniors can travel virtually to World Heritage sites, revisit old haunts or even attend family events they would otherwise miss. In terms of benefits attained, VR is predicted to measurably improve seniors’ quality of life.

Healthcare applications of AI and telemedicine include reminders to eat, be active or take medications, perhaps assisted by a robotic companion that can share information with practitioners, children, caregivers and emergency personnel. Social applications include helping to form and maintain social connections. It may also serve as a personal concierge by reminding seniors of appointments, playing games with them and initiating dialogue to spark outward engagement.

This article appears in the December 2017 issue of Natural Awakenings.

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