Social isolation and loneliness is a growing concern for the elderly – even those who live in residential aged care.

Many people in aged care have no one – no family, friends or loved ones that visit them.

Though they are surrounded by other residents and staff, without meaningful interaction their physical and mental health can decline.

And though human interactions are ideal, when there there is no others to turn to, would interacting with a robot be a viable replacement?

Jennifer Lawrence, CEO of Brightwater Care Group, who is speaking at the upcoming Information Technology and In Aged Care (ITAC) conference this November in the Gold Coast, talks about a new technology they have utilised for their residents – Alice.

Alice is a “socialisation robot” who is used at their aged care services as a socially assistive technology.

The socialisation robot is a therapy tool used to encourage social interaction and social engagement among residents in aged care

This assistive technology is being used to “enable people living with dementia to remain socially active”.

“This is a new therapy tool that offers residents greater choice and has been observed to increase engagement of residents,” say Lawrence.

Social interaction may be between residents, residents and staff or residents and the robot.

There is a wide range of uses for such technology in an aged care setting, “the socialisation robot has been used in singing, poetry, games, bingo, exercise and reminiscence groups”.

“To clarify – our socialisation robot, Alice, does not utilise any artificial intelligence,” explains Lawrence.

“An artificially intelligent (AI) robot is capable of learning from its mistakes and can adapt to a new environment. Alice does not have this capability and is always controlled by a staff member through a tablet interface.”

Though AI is decades away from being perfected, let alone used commercially, Lawrence believes that there is indeed potential for AI to be utilised in aged care in the future.

“With the increasing availability of and the rapidly emerging technology tools that utilise AI…it would be reasonable to expect that many aged care services organisations are already starting to trial the applications of these tools.”

Some potential technologies include smart homes and digital assistants, as well as personal devices and home “accessories” such as scales, fridge’s and common kitchen devices that are connected to the internet which produce data that can utilise the information to predict or make recommended actions.

“Many of these trials will inform revised ways of working or be incorporated into new builds as organisations grow.”

“I think it is reasonable that we would see technology that uses AI in place over the next few years and this will certainly mature in its use as too does the technology that supports it,” says Lawrence.

ITAC 2017 will provide key content and opportunities for individuals and organisations with an interest in the aged care sector. National experts will present on a range of topics related to the conference theme.

Presentations will also focus on the broad business and strategic issues facing an industry dealing with multiple challenges in an environment of substantial reform.

If you’re interested in learning more about the future of technology in aged care then be sure to attend this year’s Information Technology in Aged Care (ITAC) 2017 conference the held 21 & 22 November 2017 on the Gold Coast.

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