New York to battle senior loneliness with robot companions - GCN

2022-05-28 09:24:04 By : Mr. Justin Chan

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New York plans to distribute more than 800 voice-activated companions to prevent older adults from feeling lonely and encourage health checks. 

Participants selected by the New York State Office of Aging will receive Intuition Robotics’ EllieQ, a digital assistant that proactively prompts daily check-ins and starts conversations. According to a press release, users typically interact with EllieQ 20 times a day. 

“Despite misconceptions and generalizations, older adults embrace new technology, especially when they see it is designed by older adults to meet their needs,” NYSOA Director Greg Olsen said. “For those who experience some form of isolation and wish to age in place, ElliQ is a powerful complement to traditional forms of social interaction and support from professional or family caregivers.”

The two-part device – a speaker/microphone component with an accompanying touchscreen tablet – can facilitate video calls and texts with family and friends. But EllieQ also can set up Uber rides, crack jokes, issue medicine reminders and walk users through relaxation activities, physical exercise and nutritional guidance. Its artificial intelligence offers personalized suggestions as it learns its companion’s preferences.

The devices are part of NYSOA’s broader efforts to prevent adults who age at home from feeling socially isolated. The state’s fiscal 2023 budget includes $2.9 million that will go to the EllieQ program, as well as an animatronic pet initiative, a specialized ride-sharing network, a caregiver training platform, free online courses and a virtual senior center. 

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