HealthArtificial intelligence and the elderly: can robots take care of our elderly?...

    Artificial intelligence and the elderly: can robots take care of our elderly? | Health & Wellness

    Artificial intelligence (AI) seeps into every aspect of life. It is used to create images and videos, we can chat with it, it has even revolutionized medicine by helping in the screening, diagnosis and treatment of multiple diseases, including cancer. For some time now, its potential to help care for older people and alleviate their loneliness has also been investigated. There are systems that are responsible for reminding them about taking medication, for example, with a phone call, but you can go further. The next step is accompanying robots, which incorporate technology to help the elderly in their daily lives. They can help them do exercises (physical and cognitive), detect falls, and even bring objects closer to them.

    Unwanted loneliness affects all areas of health. It increases premature deaths by at least 30% and represents a greater risk of suffering from cardiovascular diseases, stroke, dementia and mental health problems such as depression, explains Guillermo Lahera, professor of Psychiatry at the University of Alcala de Henares (UAH). ). When social relationships are lacking, “a loop of self-abandonment, unhealthy lifestyle habits and behaviors that accentuate the situation of isolation” begins, explains Lahera, who is also head of section at the Principe de Asturias University Hospital in the same city.

    Last July, the magazine Science Robotics published a report by researchers from the universities of Auckland, Duke and Cornell (United States) in which they reflected on the usefulness of AI companion robots and the risks they may entail. “The social connection with robots is increasingly important as technology advances,” the authors maintain. To justify it, they rely on other research that affirms its ability to promote “engagement, interaction and well-being, as well as a reduction in stress and loneliness.”

    Murali Doraiswamy, lead author of this work, sees companion robots with built-in AI as a solution for isolated people who have no other options, “until society prioritizes social connection and elder care.” Isabel Rodriguez, coordinator of the Gerotechnology Group of the Spanish Society of Geriatrics and Gerontology (SEGG), believes that, precisely, this is an aspect that must be taken care of, so as not to allow it to replace human contact. “It may be a patch, but if we do not treat the real problem that causes this loneliness, it will be complicated,” adds the geriatrician at the San Carlos Clinical Hospital in Madrid, who did not participate in that study.

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    Rodriguez defends that social or interpersonal relationships “are not based on physical contact or company.” per se”, but other factors such as empathy, affection or the exchange of feelings come into play. Things that “at least today, a robot is not going to give you,” he says. For Lahera, it is “the immortality of robots” that means they cannot replace human contacts.

    Antonio Lopez, professor of Social Work at the National University of Distance Education (UNED), is more optimistic and believes that any technology that allows greater communication “will help reduce unwanted loneliness.” Although he recognizes that some training will be necessary for users to “be able to interact appropriately within a technological context.”

    Loneliness and dependence

    Rodriguez, from the SEGG, believes that it is necessary to take into account the differences between each user. The first thing to assess is the cognitive state and the degree of independence. It is also important where they live, an older adult who lives in his house is not the same as another who lives in a residence. Generally, in the latter case, they tend to have a higher degree of dependency and are more cared for, so the functions required of these devices in each case would be different, explains the expert. You also have to take into account where they live, since an older person who lives in the city will not have access to the same services as in a rural environment.

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    Although the report talks about the ability of AI robots to maintain conversations with users, Doraiswamy, the lead author, acknowledges that they cannot yet do so in a real way, “as if it were person to person.” Lopez defends that the technology that is incorporated must respond to demands and concerns and be realistic with production possibilities.

    Both the author of the report and the UNED professor agree when considering a possibility worthy of science fiction. There may be people who end up becoming emotionally attached to robots: “We can project our emotions onto an object, it is quite another thing if the machine can respond.” In the study they remember that there are already devices that can be configured to speak with the voice of a loved one who has died.

    Pilot projects

    Although this type of technology is still in development and is far from widespread use, in Spain there are already some projects launched in nursing homes. They range from robotic pets, like PLEO, the dinosaur of the El Redos Foundation in Sant Pere de Ribes (Barcelona) to help patients with dementia, to robots like Pepper, in the Prytanis residence in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat (Barcelona), which helps older people perform physical therapy and cognitive exercises.

    Carlos Vivas, business director of the company PAL Robotics, believes that robotics will become “a very useful tool to assist staff and provide support to patients.” The company has several projects supported by the European Union and in them they work with robots such as ARI and TIAGo. Its objectives are to promote a healthy and independent life, to be able to interact effectively with more than one person at a time and, even, in the case of TIAGo, to provide medical care: recognizing users, understanding vocal instructions and also the emotional states to achieve person-centered human interactions. “The premise is that the person maintains control and has support that promotes their autonomy,” says Vivas.

    The biggest question is whether we can create a model of artificial intelligence, robotics, and services based on human rights.

    Antonio Lopez, UNED

    The robots offered by the company are in continuous development to offer the greatest number of functionalities possible. For example, games on their touch screen to work on cognition, programs to promote exercise if they are inactive for a long time, connecting them with their loved ones through a video call or reminding them of pending appointments. And, of course, connect directly with the primary caregiver if the senior needs help, such as in a fall. They also hope that devices that have the necessary tools are capable of carrying objects or helping the elderly person they care for pick up something that has been dropped.

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    An issue that cannot be lost sight of, experts agree, are the ethical implications that must be taken into account when developing these robots. The authors of the report are concerned about the processing of information, the guarantee of privacy and who would be responsible in the event of an accident. The business director of PAL Robotics says that his company tries to avoid the collection and use of personal data to develop its projects and, if they do, they anonymize that information.

    For Lopez, from UNED, technology changes the nature of things and our reality. Therefore, “the biggest question is whether we can create a model of artificial intelligence, robotics, and services, based on human rights,” he concludes.

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    Source: EL PAIS

    This post is posted by Awutar staff members. Awutar is a global multimedia website. Our Email: [email protected]


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