The New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) plans to deliver Elli Q, a robotic device, to the homes of 800 older adults. The officials believe it will help older people tackle the issues of loneliness. Additionally, the device will remind them to take their medication, help contact friends and family, book an Uber and even engage in small talks and crack jokes. Elli Q is manufactured by Israeli tech firm Intuition Robotics and is similar to a “more proactive version of Siri or Alexa.”
“Many features attracted us to ElliQ — that it is a proactive tool, remembers the interactions with the individual, focuses on health and wellness, stress reduction, sleep, hydration, etc.,” said Greg Olsen, NYSOFA director. Olsen noted that Elli Q focuses on what matters to individuals, like memories or interactions with loved ones. He believes it will promote the overall good health and well-being of lonely elders.
What is Elli Q?
It is a two-part machine attached to a base. On the one hand, one part is a “face” shaped like a lamp. On the other hand, the second part is a touchscreen tablet. The face comes with a microphone and speakers. In addition, it lights up and swivels to face the person it is interacting with. The touchscreen tablet allows users to make video calls and display pictures and information.
More details on the robotic companion plan for elders by the NYSOFA
The NYSOFA is investing around $700,000 in this pilot program. Roger Noyes, the NYSOFA spokesperson, revealed that elders would get an Elli Q unit for as long as they needed it. “Then, they will put it into reuse on a sustaining basis for others in the community who would benefit,” Noyes said. He added that the agency would track the outcome of the data before planning to expand the program.
Furthermore, this is not the first time a robotic companion got used to keeping company with an elder. Japan, Denmark, and Italy have already done so, well before the Covid-19 pandemic. Additionally, state governments in New York, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Florida, and other jurisdictions have experimented with similar pilot programs. And now, more than ever, a robotic companion for a lonely individual has become necessary.
The National Academies report of 2020 showed that one-third of US adults from age 45 and up were lonely. Unfortunately, according to some surveys, there are higher rates among younger adults. And now, it has become even worse. Evidence suggests that loneliness can damage health and shorten an individual’s lifespan. The reason is that besides psychological distress, it causes inflammation and elevation in stress hormones. And that can result in tightening of the blood vessels and an increase in blood pressure.
So, pilot programs like Elli Q have become imperative. Interestingly, Intuition Robotics defines Elli Q as a “friendly presence in your daily life.” It can have a conversation, instill healthier habits, tell jokes, and give suggestions. Lastly, the device is available for a subscription charge of $30-$40 per month. And, if buyers pre-book the device, they have to pay a $250 enrollment fee.