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
Health and wellness
Treatments and devices
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.