Blog: Chatbots: A Golden Tool for Golden-Agers
The technological playground is often perceived to be territory exclusive to the young, with older generations being left at the side lines trying to follow the game and play catch up.
While the adoption of AI and digital transformation continues to gain massive global traction, there is increasing opportunity for senior citizens to benefit greatly from the capabilities of these technological developments, thereby also presenting a largely untapped market for innovators. Chatbots provide easy access to the generation that technology may have previously ‘forgotten’, and are changing the game entirely for golden-agers, in the way of health management, companionship and day-to-day support.
Chatbots are the perfect right hand virtual man or woman and can be programmed to assist with day-to-day activities, such as explaining how certain products work or how to perform certain tasks, like how to record a TV show, prepare a meal or fix something around the house. They can also provide helpful reminders throughout the day to take medication, eat meals, do exercises or attend scheduled appointments, helping to maintain structure and a large degree of independence in their day-to-day life.
A new kind of companionship
One of the largest factors in the wellbeing of senior citizens is companionship, a lack of which is a common challenge at this stage of life. Chatbots are the perfect candidates to step in and fill this void by providing stimulating engagement to users. The user would be able to engage with the chatbot in exactly the same way as they would a relative or friend — through natural language chat — and receive responses in the same, familiar way. So, while it may not technically be a human on the other end, it would most certainly feel human.
The beauty of chatbots is that there are no new skills that need to be learned in order to use them. Instant messaging is largely familiar territory to the golden-ager generation and using a chatbot is no different. If the user can chat via SMS, they can engage with a chatbot. There’s no fancy tech-speak or skill required. This is what makes them so easily accessible to the younger and older generations alike. And, in cases where Whatsapp or Facebook may be installed on the user’s computer or phone already, there’s no need to even install a new app to use them, as they’re compatible across most widely-used instant messaging platforms.
Enabling and empowering those in their older years to maintain a strong sense of connection to the world around them, makes an invaluable difference to their quality of life.
Chronic illness management
The capabilities of chatbots can greatly assist with the management of healthcare conditions or chronic illness by setting reminders to follow a treatment regime and providing on-demand guidance, support and information on the user’s condition.
In particular, with cases of dementia on the rise globally, chatbots provide a golden support tool for reminding people to take their medication, storing previous conversations and providing stimulation through memory games. Machine learning technology’s ability to allow chatbots to ‘get to know’ their users through continued use, creates a comforting familiarity for the users, which is particularly important in these cases. This technology also gives them the capability to observe a person’s health and alert doctors if it picks up any concerning changes in their condition or a potential emergency.
Support for caregivers
Assisted living comes with a price tag that many aren’t able to afford for their loved ones.
Needing to be away from an elderly loved one can be very stressful for a primary caregiver. Chatbots can greatly alleviate this stress and uncertainty by communicating to the caregiver as the user has completed certain tasks or reporting on the user’s current condition, based on how they answered certain daily questions, for example.
Bots can also help share the hefty caregiving load, by helping to book medical appointments, coordinate the delivery of meals and being available to the user 24/7 to ask any questions or contact someone quickly and easily in the case of an emergency.
Ongoing developments in AI technology are using sensors to track a person’s condition and report any potential risks to caregivers.
For example, researchers at the University of Missouri ran a 10-year program whereby depth sensors were mounted on walls within a retirement home that were able to detect subtle changes in residents’ walking patterns or increased shakiness, enabling them to detect a fall and even predict a person’s chances of falling. This enabled nurses to suggest necessary treatment options sooner and resulted in users being able to live independently for significantly longer than the national average.
Chatbots are golden
Due to advancements in medicine, the average life expectancy and golden-ager community is continuing to grow and therefore, technology can no longer ignore the needs of this generation.
While already having a great positive impact on the lives of the elderly, at the rate that AI is improving, the further comfort, care and companionship that chatbots will be able to provide in the near future is truly remarkable and will play a significant role in improving the quality of life of the elderly and the peace of mind of their loved ones.