Can chatbots improve the healthcare experience of elderly?


Technology is changing the way we age. New healthcare services have improved life expectancy. But more years on Earth do not equate to healthy, happy years.

Especially for our elderly population. Longer life spans means increased risk of chronic diseases like dementia, age-induced disability and increased dependency on family members. Some of these problems can be easily solved by technology. 

However, the problem with technology is that it doesn’t fit well with our elderly. If you’ve grandparents at home who struggle with touch screen phones or are wary of everything that has to do with technology, you will understand that it’s not their mistake entirely.

They are the generation that technology makers often sideline while building experiences. They are the generation that lived low-tech lives with more human conversations, intimate care, and close-kin relationships. It’s not them who need to change. It’s technology makers who need to be more embracing and empathetic.  

After all, they form nearly 8% of the population of Earth. 

With growing age, one of the major challenges that elders face is loss of memory, loss of appetite, loneliness and physical assistance in one form or another. In some countries, the elderly also like to live independently.

So what can technology do to support them?

The answer lies in offering care through chatbots. A personalized AI assistant that interacts with elderly people can address many problems at a time. It can provide companionship, entertainment, give medication and appointment reminders, connect to primary caregivers in case of any emergency and keep your health and wellness goals in check.

The possibilities are endless, but let’s look at two of the most urgent ones that AI chatbots can help with-

AI Chatbots: Filling the void with intelligent conversations

AI Chatbots: Filling the void with intelligent conversations

ElliQ is a robot companion and it’s designed to provide social companionship to older adults. It can indulge you with a trivia question for entertainment. You can even chat, video call your family members while they’re on a vacation.

It might sound like a simple thing to do, but this is what elderly people miss the most– a companion to talk to and someone who could help them do simple tasks. This is where chatbots with natural language processing (NLP) abilities prove to be useful. 

Apart from making casual conversation, they can also offer a helping hand in doing their daily chores– taking medications on time, eating timely meals, managing their health, tracking their vitals, renewing their insurance, connecting them to people with similar interests or booking their doctor’s appointment. The list is just endless.

The important thing to remember is to build an empathetic relationship so that they don’t feel like they’re talking to a machine. Another important feature that needs to be built is tracking their health round the clock. Most elderly in developed countries live alone. So we need something that can virtually monitor their health 24*7 and inform family/healthcare providers in case of emergencies.

AI Chatbots: A helping hand for primary caregivers

AI Chatbots: A helping hand for primary caregivers

In caring for the elders, we often forget the contribution of primary caregivers (sons, daughters, wives) who juggle between their work and life to help older adults live comfortably. Not everyone can afford help from outside. Therefore, here as well, chatbots prove to be an economically viable solution. 

Intelligent chatbots are far less expensive and can provide basic caregiving while the primary caregiver is busy at work/home. It can help them in task management for elderly such as booking their appointments, keeping a record of their vitals, sending them medication reminders, renewing their insurance on time, etc.

Imagine this scene-

The chatbot gives the caregiver an entire day’s summary of their loved ones. 

“Hi Courtney, your dad started the day early today, took his medicines on time and then went for a walk. The rest of the day he spent reading, cooking and watching videos on YouTube. He laughed a lot, so it’s safe to say he had a good day. His appointment with Dr. Farah is tomorrow. I’ll remind him to iron his clothes, don’t worry.”

Who wouldn’t like these kinds of details? Especially a son or a daughter who lives away from their old family members.

There is no doubt that chatbots can never replace in-person care. But they can definitely reduce a lot of burden on healthcare providers and primary caregivers. More importantly, they are affordable as compared to in-person care.

Living longer should translate to a life spent well in good health. And chatbots can help make that possible.

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