New York Trials Robot Companions For Elderly People In A Bid To Combat Loneliness

Robot companions are being offered to senior citizens in New York in a bid to combat loneliness. The device, known as ElliQ, consists of an interactive robot paired with a tablet. The New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) are working with local partners to identify older adults who would most benefit from the technology. ElliQ can carry out daily check-ins, suggest health and wellness tasks such as sleep relaxation and physical exercises remind users to take their medication, and help them stay in touch with family and friends. It also "proactively suggests" activities and initiates conversations, using artificial intelligence (AI) to foster a sense of relationship. NYSOFA says the device will help "foster independence and provide support for older adults". Produced by Israel-based start-up Intuition Robotics, the ElliQ device is marketed by the company as a "sidekick for healthier, happier ageing". It was launched for commercial sale in March this year. "Despite misconceptions and generalisations, older adults embrace new technology, especially when they see it is designed by older adults to meet their needs," NYSOFA Director Greg Olsen said in a statement. Researchers are increasingly turning to robots for solutions as cases of social isolation and loneliness rise among older populations. Such feelings are widespread, with some countries reporting that up to one in three older people feel lonely, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In Europe, robots have already been trialled in UK care homes in a bid to try and boost mental health and reduce loneliness.

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