IBM IoT and the Elderly

South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) is all about showcasing the latest and greatest in emerging technology, but this track discussed potential tech advances aimed at specifically at older adults. It is predicted that in 2040 the elderly population (adults 65 years and over) will surpass the number of children for the first time in history. Historically older adults are slow to adapt technology according the Pew Research Center, though there has been a steady rise in social media adoptions by this demographic due to smartphones, yet most current technology is shaped for the young. How will these tech advances interact and affect the lives of the world’s elderly population?

Susann Keohane, Sr. Technologist, IBM, and Nicola Palmarini, Technology Advocate, IBM Research, hosted a panel on the Aging Population and the Internet of Caring Things.

They define the Internet of Caring Things as: “A network of connected objects (devices, sensors) and cognitive systems with a clear mission: to actively care for people – their physical and mental well-being, homes, loved ones…and….when applied to the aging population – to allow family members, doctors, and caregivers to proactively monitor the health and well-being of the world’s aging population. “

With an aging population, Keohane and Palmarini expect the future to include a heightened expectation of care where care is no longer defined as physical well-being in a hospital or nursing home, but “the idea of care is to feel the best you can in your home.” Care will be the choreography of a community of care takers and policy makers where unstructured data gathered from multiple sources will combine to provide insights and actionable recommendations.

How do we get there? The solution is “smart objects that put people first.” Although the elderly may not be comfortable with many of the digital communication devices that many of us use every day, Palmarini suggests using something that the elderly are generally familiar and comfortable with – like the television or a pet. The elderly could be comfortable with a robotic pet that could monitor them. Japan has been exploring robot companions for the elderly for years.  Implementing the artificial intelligence technology into a medium with which older adults are comfortable will more likely lead to the meaningful use of smart objects by the aging population.

Keohane and Palmarini emphasize that there may not be a one size fits all solution, but the creation of a hybrid world where the community of caregivers for the elderly is informed by these types of smart objects can ultimately allow us to monitor and care for this growing section of the population in new and beneficial ways.

Learn more about IBM and the tech for the elderly


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