How innovative technologies help an aging population stay healthier and happier

By | 5 minute read | October 1, 2018

The developed world is grappling with the challenges of an aging population. By 2050, it’s estimated that at least 40 percent of the population in Germany, Italy, Japan and Singapore will be over the age of 60. For the United Kingdom, Canada, United States and Brazil, it’s anticipated that proportion will stand at 30 percent.

What does this mean for society? A growing number of senior citizens puts greater pressure on care resources, which are often already stretched. Many elderly people are reluctant to leave their homes, wanting to live in familiar surroundings for as long as possible. However, issues with mobility, dementia and memory loss, failing sight and hearing and loneliness are all areas where people may need support as they get older. As families disperse more widely and gain more commitments on their time, they’re less likely to have the ability to care for elderly relatives.

The good news is that recent innovations in technology could mitigate many of the challenges associated with an aging population. IBM is creating pioneering artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions that are transforming quality of life for the elderly, with benefits for the whole of society.

Creating smart home environments

Through networks of connected devices, sensors and cognitive systems, IBM is enabling family members and caregivers to proactively monitor the health and well-being of elderly people.

Karantis360 is a UK company that’s combining machine learning, IoT and cloud technology from IBM with movement, door, pressure, humidity and water sensors from EnOcean to ensure the wellbeing of clients. By identifying and flagging up unusual behavior, its solutions enable caregivers to provide exceptional service and efficiently share information with relatives.

Sole Cooperativa, which provides elder care and assisted living facilities, implemented IBM Watson IoT technology to capture and analyze motion, location and other data from ambient and wearable sensors. By alerting nurses when residents’ actions deviate from the norm, the solution enables better prioritization and helps nurses provide timely assistance to those who need it most. Already, the company has increased operational efficiency by between 15 and 20 percent, while reducing risk factors and improving patient experiences.

R + V Versicherung, a leading German insurer, embarked on a new smart home project in partnership with Malteser Hilfsdienst, a not-for-profit non-governmental humanitarian aid agency. The two organizations engaged IBM to build a solution based on IBM Watson IoT in the IBM Cloud that uses sensors to speed up emergency assistance for vulnerable residents in medical emergencies.

Avamere Family and IBM Research applied IBM Watson IoT technologies to help enhance overall elder well-being and enable improved care at lower costs and with reduced human effort. Senior residences were instrumented with more than 1,000 consumer-grade, ambient sensors to monitor and measure activities of daily living. When correlated with patient claims data, and hospital readmission data, new insights for risk mitigation emerged. By applying AI and IoT to eldercare systems, new opportunities emerge for putting preventative measures in place — taking eldercare to the next level.

Ramping up the accessibility of transport

Access to transport is a key issue faced by the elderly, who may be dealing with declining eyesight, hearing, reflexes and mobility. IBM is developing AI solutions to help give senior citizens greater independence outside their homes.

The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) Foundation, Local Motors and IBM Accessibility Research are teaming up to develop autonomous vehicles that could be the key to greater freedom of movement for people struggling with limited mobility, hearing or sight impairments and cognitive issues. The first self-driving cognitive vehicle, Local Motors Olli, is equipped with some of the world’s most advanced vehicle technology, including IBM Watson IoT for Automotive. Olli uses IBM Watson to enable natural language interaction between the vehicle and passenger.

Olli, first self-driving cognitive vehicle, can help seniors stay mobile and more independent.

Empowering elderly people to stay healthy

To help members of the aging population take measures to protect their own health, IBM is harnessing AI and analytics solutions to deliver tailored recommendations.

Chameleon Technology is a UK-based designer and manufacturer of in-home displays for the global smart meter and connected home markets.Chameleon is developing a cloud platform called I•VIE, based on IBM’s Watson Assistant technology. I•VIE uniquely uses real-time smart meter data, integrated with home appliance and other data to help consumers understand, manage and optimize their energy use in their home.

Chameleon is also doing important work with Liverpool John Moores University and the local Merseyside NHS Trust to study how I•VIE could help patients living with Alzheimer’s by spotting changes in behavior, which can better inform caregivers. Behavioral changes associated with progression of the illness often include alterations in routine or abnormal sleep patterns. These abnormalities tend to get more frequent as dementia progresses and can be detected through energy usage where gradual changes occur over long observation periods. Data about home temperatures, gathered securely via I•VIE, could also be shared with family members letting them know that their loved one is safe and warm even if there is a sudden cold snap. I•VIE is a great example of how IBM Watson Assistant, an AI-powered enterprise-grade virtual assistant technology, is helping companies build new types of branded services for their clients.

Arthritis is a significant issue for elderly people and society as a whole, as living with the physical challenges often requires a great deal of support. The charity Versus Arthritis introduced an IBM Watson powered virtual assistant to provide personalized support and lifestyle advice for people with the condition. Using the solution’s natural language capabilities, the organization can surface relevant, valuable information in a very user-friendly manner.

These examples are just the start. IBM has been committed to developing accessibility technology solutions to help people with physical and mental limitations for more than 100 years. Now, we’re focused on helping the world’s growing aging population through solutions that incorporate sensors, robotic assistants, the IoT, and other cognitive-powered technologies. By working together with our partners around the world, we can provide clinicians and caregivers with insights to help them make better care decisions.

If you would like to learn more about Elderly Care solutions, you can visit our website.