Most seniors today were of prime movie-going age in 1968 when Stanley Kubrick’s landmark 2001: A Space Odyssey premiered. They will remember vividly how the ship’s computer HAL overrode its human masters to take control of the mission.
Small wonder that the phrase “artificial intelligence,” or AI, comes with some negative connotations. For many, the notion of AI is fraught with peril – a vision of a future in which machines dominate humans.
But that is not today’s reality. In fact, artificial intelligence is rapidly proving a helpful tool in carrying out myriad tasks. As a form of senior technology, AI offers the possibility of delivering better, more efficient care.
What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?
To begin with, it helps to understand the fundamentals. AI is a branch of computer science by which computers carry out tasks normally done by people. This might mean recognizing speech or following a logical set of rules. Unlike human actors, AI has certain advantages. As a computer process, its steps will be consistent, time after time. As an iterative process AI systems also can “learn,” calculating repeated actions or behaviors to build up predictive capabilities.
It can be done: Ask a smartphone map an address, and the phone will not only hear but “understand” the request. DeepFace, an algorithm released by Facebook in 2014, can reportedly recognize individual human faces in images 97 percent of the time. As a form of senior technology, AI also can improve resident care – but more of that in a moment.
Artificial Intelligence in Senior Living
Predictive models of health and wellness underlie the promise of artificial intelligence as a form of senior technology. The premise is straightforward: Just as a computational system can be taught to “learn” a senior’s baseline patterns and behaviors, that same system can send an alert when patterns are changing, potentially heading off negative events before they happen.
Take for instance a system design to predict and preempt falls. Such a system may bring together motion sensors, bed sensors and depth sensors placed in the senior’s apartment. These sensors would collect data passively, measuring activities discreetly and processing those measurements through AI software. The software learns patterns and anticipates changes, reducing the risk of falls.
Bottom Line Impacts of AI in Senior Living
Business outcomes also may arise out of the thoughtful use of AI. Take for instance the increasing emphasis on accountable care organizations. Senior housing providers are eager to become a part of that critical provider chain, and AI may offer them something of special value to bring to the table.
By promoting wellness through predictive capabilities, AI can help keep residents out of hospitals – a shared ambition of both the ACOs and the providers themselves. By providing real-time information without the need for human intervention, senior housing leaders can establish for themselves a valuable place in the ACO spectrum.
All that being said, it’s important to remember what AI is not: It’s not a replacement for the human element of care and compassion that remains at the core of senior housing. AI may help to automate some mechanical functions, but at the end of the day it is still the caregivers who drive the senior housing experience.