Companion robots offer to help people “age in place” and combat social isolation. The New York State Office for the Aging, or NYSOFA, yesterday announced that it will include the ElliQ system from Intuition Robotics Ltd. in a program for more than 800 older adults.
Under the program, NYSOFA will work with public and private partners, as well as local offices for the aging, to identify people who would benefit most from the voice-operated smart technology. ElliQ will be available through more than 830 case managers.
“We are so pleased to partner with Intuition Robotics and make ElliQ available to older adults in New York,” stated Greg Olsen, director of the New York State Office for the Aging. “This product does so many things to improve health, combat isolation, and improve overall well-being and independence. Designed with input from older adults, the future of supporting and serving older adults includes technology. The future is here.”
ElliQ designed to engage older adults
In 2017, the U.S. Surgeon General declared social isolation to be a “global epidemic” – one that has only worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the AARP Public Policy Institute, social isolation drives $6.7 billion in additional associated Medicare spending per year. The health consequences of loneliness and isolation are equivalent to smoking almost a pack of cigarettes daily, said the institute.
ElliQ offers another form of companionship, supplementing traditional, in-person support, said Intuition Robotics. The Ramat Gan, Israel-based startup said it designed its service robot to foster independence and provide support for older adults through daily check-ins, assistance with wellness goals and physical activities, connection to family and friends, and more using voice commands and/or on-screen instructions.
The technology, which recently launched commercially after years of pilots and early production deployments, has shown unprecedented engagement levels with older adults, said Intuition. Users have an average of 20 daily interactions with the system.
Unlike other voice-controlled devices or social robots, ElliQ is made specifically to support independence at home for older adults. While other technologies are reactive to commands, ElliQ proactively suggests activities and initiates conversations, building context through artificial intelligence to inform follow-up conversations that create a sense of relationship.
To support health and wellness, ElliQ offers sleep relaxation exercises, physical activity exercises, in-depth nutrition-related conversations, and medication reminders for each user’s unique conditions.
“We’ve long believed that connecting older adults with local communities via ElliQ will add an important element in providing holistic support to older adults aging in place,” said Dor Skuler, co-founder and CEO of Intuition Robotics. “This partnership with NYSOFA helps us further that mission through an innovative initiative that we are incredibly proud to be part of.”
He added: “We’re thrilled to be working with New York State as our first state government partner and believe ElliQ will be able to effectively engage and encourage older adults in New York to be more independent, healthy, and happy.”
New York State invests in elder care
NYSOFA works to help the state’s 4.6 million older adults be as independent as possible for as long as possible through advocacy, development, and delivery of person-centered, consumer-oriented, and cost-effective policies, programs, and services.
“Despite misconceptions and generalizations, older adults embrace new technology, especially when they see it is designed by older adults to meet their needs,” said Olsen. “For those who experience some form of isolation and wish to age in place, ElliQ is a powerful complement to traditional forms of social interaction and support from professional or family caregivers.”
Intuition Robotics will hold a webinar with the case managers on May 31 to demonstrate and explain ElliQ. The company's team will then be available to all of NYSOFA's partners for installation and any more training as needed, Skuler told Robotics 24/7.
Becky Preve, executive director of Association on Aging in New York (AgingNY), added: “We are so thankful for NYSOFA's continued commitment to older New Yorkers and the opportunity to partner on innovative solutions that support aging in place.”
The Association on Aging in New York supports and advocates for the state's mostly county-based Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs). It works with a network of organizations to promote independence, preserve dignity, and provide support for state residents as they age.
The newly enacted Fiscal Year 2023 state budget includes $2.9 million in funding for NYSOFA initiatives to combat social isolation and offer new or expanded innovations and services for the aging. In addition to $700,000 for ElliQ, this includes the following:
- NYSOFA's animatronic pet initiative, which provides lifelike companion pets for older adults and is proven to reduce self-reported loneliness by 70%
- Statewide access to Trualta’s family caregiver support platform, which offers expert-led training across critical care competencies
- Ride-sharing services designed exclusively for older adults
- Online communities that provide facilitator-led classes and services