Original article was published on Artificial Intelligence on Medium
AI Applications for Senior Health and Wellness
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Just as we seem to expect today’s young adults to macgyver a nuclear power plant with just a smartphone and a smile, we also tend to treat our senior adults as if the modern toaster oven were beyond their powers of comprehension. When it comes to today’s technology, we seem to expect our seniors to be confused and lost.
But, in fact, many seniors are far more tech-savvy than we give them credit for, and they’re using their skills in a myriad of ways, including to support their own health and wellness. This article shows you how.
The Doctor Will See You Now
One of the greatest advantages of modern technology for seniors today is the impact it has on the consistency and quality of their healthcare. Thanks to telemedicine, seniors are able to access their healthcare team anytime and anywhere. This is a benefit to those who may have difficulty physically traveling to their routine medical appointments or arranging for transportation. Now travel distance, disability, or lockdowns are no barrier.
That means that seniors can get regular, real-time care through video conferencing with doctors, nurses, therapists, and counselors across a range of specialties without leaving the comfort of their home. For medically fragile seniors or those without reliable transportation, telemedicine can be the key to their receiving the care they deserve versus simply making do.
Best of all, the capabilities of telemedicine extend far beyond virtual office visits. Thanks to mHealth technologies, care providers can provide on-going remote monitoring of patients’ vital signs and other essential health data, from their nutritional and sleep patterns to their blood pressure and heart rate. These technologies can even detect signs of an emergency such as a fall.
This is crucial not just for monitoring seniors’ health today, but also for developing an informed preventative health plan based on the patients’ specific risk factors. This can promote not only longevity but vitality well into the future.
Making a Connection
Studies show that loneliness is an increasing concern in today’s fast-paced society, with seniors at greatest risk. According to a recent survey, more than 28 million older Americans live alone. Likewise, more than 1.4 million senior Canadians report feeling lonely.
And it’s not just the emotional distress of loneliness that’s a cause for significant concern; it’s also the severe physical impacts. Studies show that social isolation and loneliness pose the same health risks as smoking 15 cigarettes each day.
Nevertheless, for many seniors, loneliness may feel like an inevitable fact of life. With the loss of loved ones and the onset of mobility challenges, seniors may increasingly find themselves alone. They may go for days without anyone to talk to; they may spend weeks without seeing another person’s face.
Digital technology, however, is proving highly effective in helping seniors combat their loneliness. In addition to the potential to maintain connections with friends and loved ones via social media and video conferencing, artificial intelligence (AI) systems are giving seniors “someone” to talk to whenever they need it. Highly responsive chatbots give seniors a forum to talk about their day, to express their thoughts and feelings, and to receive affirming, non-judgmental, and supportive feedback. For seniors without a strong social support network, AI chatbots can help fill a painful and dangerous void.
Keeping in the Know
Today’s technologies don’t just help seniors build the connections they need to support their emotional and physical health. AI chatbots today can also provide valuable, on-demand, location-specific data seniors may need to navigate safely and efficiently through their daily lives. This can equip them with the resources they need to go about their daily plans in safety and security.
For example, AI chatbots can provide users with real-time information on air quality in specific target areas. This can help seniors with respiratory or cardiovascular conditions make informed decisions about when and where it is safe and healthy to venture, what areas should be avoided, and when a day at home might be the safest bet.
These chatbots can even be used to assess seniors’ physical and mental health, evaluating users’ symptoms and advising them on when to consult a doctor or seek emergency care. The result is senior empowerment through technology!
While it’s true that today’s young people may have lived their entire lives with the technologies that are still a wonder to older generations, that certainly does not mean that seniors can’t or don’t take full advantage of today’s tech. Now, more than ever, seniors are using technology to optimize their health and well-being on almost every front. From promoting physical and psychological health to providing essential emotional support, today’s tech is dramatically improving seniors’ overall quality of life.