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2019 AI in Practice: Disrupting the retirement living industry to deliver best in class health exper

The demographics of Canada are changing quickly. By 2050, 26% of Canada’s population is expected to be aged 65 or better, up from 18% today. With smaller families, busier schedules, and tighter budgets, the pressure is on to find solutions to ensure this growing group of people receives quality care. Fortunately, artificial intelligence is helping the retirement industry serve up innovative solutions to meet the burgeoning need.

Though results from our 2019 Sklar Wilton AI tracker* indicate that 57% of people aged 65 and older don’t understand the current state of artificial intelligence, 71% believe AI may affect them. Sean Taggart, CMO at Amica Senior Lifestyles, says “Seniors also have an increasing savviness for technology and possess a thorough understanding of their lifestyle needs as they age.”

Monitor Health without Traveling to a Medical Facility 

People aged 65 and better understand the broader implications of AI and how it can impact their lives. About 72% of older people believe AI will significantly improve healthcare, and 51% think this will happen within the next 5 years. About 54% believe that AI would be useful for diagnosing health issues, and 36% would be comfortable if AI diagnosed medical conditions without a doctor directly involved.

Wearable AI devices are helping medical providers be more efficient by detecting subtle changes in speech, blood pressure, and behaviour patterns to monitor and predict signs of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and to prevent falls, ulcers, and heart attacks. Already being used within retirement communities, both Winterlight Labs and TAVIE have built AI tools that attend to subtle speech characteristics to identify changes in cognitive health. And, Keystone Healthcare and Biotricity offer real time monitoring to allow early identification of ulcers and heart attacks, and even help prevent falls.

These devices aren’t designed nor intended to replace human caregivers and healthcare experts. Rather, they allow healthcare experts to identify potential concerns sooner, preventing some of those concerns from becoming more serious problems. And for seniors, this 

advanced preventative care helps them retain their independence longer. It postpones the transitions they’ll need to make from their own home, to assisted care, and on to nursing care, thereby reserving more intense, personal care for those who really need it.

Provide Meaningful Companionship on Demand 

Like most of us, often without knowing, seniors too are regularly exposed to AI. About 23% of people aged 65 or better have used a chatbot to get assistance, and of the 12% who have a voice assistant, 83% are very happy with it. PARO US and AIST JP

According to Taggart, “seniors, like the younger generations, are now expecting personalized customer experiences.” About 48% of seniors say they would feel comfortable if AI provided personal companionship and a whopping 81% believe AI would increase accessibility for people living with disabilities. Seniors understand that AI can do more than improve the effectiveness of medical care, and they’re ready to embrace those benefits.

Given concerns about allergies and cleanliness, introducing live companion animals into seniors’ homes isn’t practical. As an alternative, some nursing homes and retirement living centers, including at least 14 in Canada, offer residents an FDA Class II medical device in the form of a robotic seal called Paro which purrs or cries as people give it attention. Similarly, the Joy for All robotic dog and cat have built-in sensors that allow them to respond to motion and touch, and help to calm hospital patients and people with dementia.  

Other AI devices take companionship one step further by offering personalized conversations. Robotic home assistants like Catalia Health’s Mabu, Intuition Robotics’ ElliQ, and CT Asia Robotics’ Dinsow are being trained to participate in meaningful conversations with people, while also sharing in-the-moment health information with family and medical professionals. Though live human interaction is always most desirable, robotic devices are often much loved by users and are successfully filling gaps.

Next Steps

The retirement living industry is growing quickly and technology is evolving in response. As innovators leverage AI to enable in-home health monitoring and provide companionship for improved mental wellbeing, seniors will welcome and expect longer periods of independent living and shorter periods of nursing care. As with most other industries, retirement living communities are being disrupted and evolving with AI applications.

*The 2019 AI in Practice blog post series is based on Sklar Wilton & Associates 3rd annual AI tracker. In partnership with Canadian Viewpoint, 1008 adults in Canada, balanced to Statistics Canada demographics on age, gender, region, and French/English language, completed a 20-minute self-administered questionnaire in August 2019. As with all non-probability samples using access panels, margin of error cannot be calculated, and results are subject to both sampling and non-sampling error. Learn more from the 2018 AI tracker and the 2017 AI tracker.


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