Is AI the future of elder care?

The technology is designed to ease carers' burdens while allowing older people to remain independent for longer.

Illustrative photo of two elderly people staring at a beach.  (photo credit: BRUNO AGUIRRE/UNSPLASH)
Illustrative photo of two elderly people staring at a beach.
(photo credit: BRUNO AGUIRRE/UNSPLASH)

Age-tech researchers in the United Kingdom are beginning to explore how artificial intelligence (AI) can further the field of caring for those in their golden years. 

The eHealth Productivity and Innovation in Cornwall and The Isles of Scilly (EPIC) program is partnering with tech innovator Sentai to create a digital companion for the elderly and their loved ones. The initiative is run and backed by the University of Plymouth. 

The technology is designed to ease carers' burdens while allowing older people to remain independent for longer. The two companies are already recruiting volunteers to try out the Sentai device for a six-week period. 

What does this new tech actually do?

The assistive AI will provide conversational prompts and reminders to seniors, informing them of various tasks to complete throughout the day including taking medication. The AI will also send updates to loved ones throughout the course of the day so that they know whether or not their elderly relative's daily routine is on its proper course. 

Will AI be capable of overpowering humanity? (credit: Wikimedia Commons)Will AI be capable of overpowering humanity? (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Phil Marshman, Sentai founder and chief executive, said: “Our journey with EPIC started back in July 2020, when I attended a virtual webinar with a colleague which was hosted by Ray Jones from EPIC. We immediately saw a synergy between the program and the work we were doing at Sentai, so to be partnering with them on this study is great and has the potential to really drive forward our ambitious plans for the business.

“Age-tech has huge potential both to support and deliver care in the UK, relieving pressure on a stretched system. As it’s designed specifically for older people, it can truly help them to remain independent in their own home for longer. With our elderly population set to increase rapidly in coming years, finding ways to care for them among a shortage of care home places is paramount. We’re hoping that this study will help us to develop Sentai further and continue making a difference to both older people and their loved ones.

Leonie Cooper, Digital Health Research Associate, who is managing the research, commented: “Feedback from the people who will ultimately use and benefit from an innovation, is crucial to any eHealth development's success. By conducting end user testing, Sentai are setting themselves up for success, making sure that their solution truly meets real-world needs.”