Over the next fifteen years the number of elderly in the United States will grow by over 50%. The National Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that home health aides will grow 38% over the next ten years. Despite the broad opportunities in this domain—basic social support, interaction and communication devices, home health monitoring, a variety of simple in-home physical aids such as walkers, and light meal preparation—little has happened over the past fifteen years. But the coming generational shift will accompany a change in technology acceptance among the elderly. Currently, someone who is seventy was born in 1946 and may have first experienced some form of personalized IT in middle age or later, while a fifty-year-old today is far more technology-friendly and savvy. As a result, there will be a growing interest and market for already available and maturing technologies to support physical, emotional, social, and mental health. Here are a few likely examples by category:
Life quality and independence
- Automated transportation will support continued independence and expanded social horizons.
- Sharing of information will help families remain engaged with one another at a distance, and predictive analytics may be used to “nudge” family groups toward positive behaviors, such as reminders to “call home.”
- Smart devices in the home will help with daily living activities when needed, such as cooking and, if robot manipulation capabilities improve sufficiently, dressing and toileting.
Health and wellness
- Mobile applications that monitor movement and activities, coupled with social platforms, will be able to make recommendations to maintain mental and physical health.
- In-home health monitoring and health information access will be able to detect changes in mood or behavior and alert caregivers.
- Personalized health management will help mitigate the complexities associated with multiple co-morbid conditions and/or treatment interactions.
Treatments and devices
- Better hearing aids and visual assistive devices will mitigate the effects of hearing and vision loss, improving safety and social connection.
- Personalized rehabilitation and in-home therapy will reduce the need for hospital or care facility stays.
- Physical assistive devices (intelligent walkers, wheel chairs, and exoskeletons) will extend the range of activities of an infirm individual.
The Study Panel expects an explosion of low-cost sensing technologies that can provide substantial capabilities to the elderly in their homes. In principle, social agents with a physical presence and simple physical capabilities (e.g. a mobile robot with basic communication capabilities) could provide a platform for new innovations. However, doing so will require integration across multiple areas of AI—Natural Language Processing, reasoning, learning, perception, and robotics—to create a system that is useful and usable by the elderly.
These innovations will also introduce questions regarding privacy within various circles, including friends, family, and care-givers, and create new challenges to accommodate an evermore active and engaged population far past retirement.
 Jennifer M. Ortman, Victoria A. Velkoff, and Howard Hogan, "An Aging Nation: The Older Population in the United States: Population Estimates and Projections," Current Population Reports, U.S Census Bureau (May 2014), accessed August 1, 2016, https://www.census.gov/prod/2014pubs/p25-1140.pdf.