Artificial intelligence “significantly” improves mental health of elderly, study reveals

Artificial intelligence could be used to dramatically improve the mental health of elderly people shielding throughout the coronavirus pandemic, it has been suggested.

The research, published by the University of Bedfordshire, is the largest of its kind to explore the use of “culturally competent robots” in caring for the elderly.

In collaboration with robotics firm SoftBank, the study set out to demonstrate how artificial intelligence could improve mental health and have potential to reduce loneliness in older people.

It found that after just two weeks – which included around 18 hours of one-to-one therapy, older adults saw a “significant improvement in their mental health”.

After this period, there was a minor but sustained positive impact on loneliness severity among users, while no users at all reported increased feelings of loneliness.

Commenting on the findings, author and Professor Irena Papadopoulos said: “In the UK alone, 15,000 people are over 100 years of age and this figure will only increase. Socially assistive, intelligent robots for older people could relieve some pressures in hospitals and care homes.

“No-one is talking about replacing humans – the evaluation demonstrates that we are a long way from doing that – but it also reveals that robots could support existing care systems.”

According to the latest statistics, more than two million people in England over the age of 75 live alone, with more than one million of those reporting not speaking to a friend, neighbour, or family member for over a month at a time.

These figures have likely risen with hundreds of thousands of “vulnerable” adults asked to shield throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

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