New York State’s smart tech partnership sharply reduced feelings of loneliness among seniors

The NYSOFA partnered with smart tech provider Intuition Robotics last year, in a collaboration that has reportedly made a difference in combating senior loneliness

The New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) announced on Tuesday that its collaboration with a smart home technology company has made a notable impact on feelings of loneliness among New York-area seniors.

In May 2022, NYSOFA announced a partnership that would deliver voice-operated smart technology, called “ElliQ,” into the homes of over 800 older adults throughout the state in an effort to combat the feelings of loneliness and isolation that the senior cohort could be prone to in later life. According to NYSOFA and its partner Intuition Robotics, this has led to a 95% reduction in feelings of loneliness for program participants along with high levels of user engagement.

“Over the past year, NYSOFA has partnered with Intuition Robotics in a pilot to bring ElliQ – the first-ever proactive and empathetic AI companion – to more than 800 New Yorkers in an effort to combat loneliness, foster engagement, improve overall health and wellness, and support aging-in-place,” NYSOFA said. “Loneliness has long been a concern for older adults, but the COVID-19 pandemic greatly exacerbated the issue, as the U.S. Surgeon General recently stressed in a highly publicized advisory on the epidemic of loneliness and isolation.”

Data reports from the NYSOFA pilot program that brought ElliQ devices into the homes of New York seniors “achieved a 95% reduction in loneliness and great improvement in well-being among older adults using the platform,” the office said in an announcement of the findings.

“ElliQ users throughout New York have also demonstrated exceptionally high levels of engagement consistently over time, interacting with their ElliQ over 30 times per day, 6 days a week,” the announcement said. “More than 75% of these interactions are related to improving the older adults’ social, physical and mental well-being.”

The high hopes that NYSOFA had for the effectiveness of ElliQ are bearing out based on this data according to Greg Olsen, its director.

“The data speaks for itself, and the stories that we’re hearing from case managers and clients around the state have been nothing short of unbelievable,” Olsen said. “To see the impact this technology is making on the lives of our community members is incredibly moving and we can’t wait to see this program continue to grow.”

The results are also encouraging for the Association on Aging in New York (AgingNY) according to Becky Preve, its executive director.

“It has been evident over the course of our pilot program that ElliQ enriches and improves the lives of the older adults we serve,” said Preve. “The pandemic encouraged us to open our eyes and think of innovative ways to deliver care to our clients. Partnering with an AI platform like ElliQ fits our strategy perfectly and I’m looking forward to getting ElliQ devices into the homes of many more older New Yorkers.”

Smart home technology has been seen as a potential solution for senior-specific loneliness for some time. In 2020, Amazon announced it was working on the integration of features that would encourage aging in place into its popular “Alexa” smart assistant.

However, seniors remain cautious about such technologies. According to a late 2021 piece in the Washington Post, seniors have been vocal about their concerns related to an ability to live independently with technology that has surveillance capabilities over their movements and actions.

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