High tech devices ease loneliness in older people

For some older people, a cure for loneliness may come in a soft, furry package, or it may come in the form of an intelligent-sounding computer device.   The New York State Office for the Aging is working with partners across the state, to get some high tech items into the homes of people who suffer from loneliness and isolation.   

ElliQ is an artificial intelligence-powered companion, designed by Intuition Robotics to support older adults as they age independently, while reducing their feelings of isolation and increasing their engagement.

The device can rattle of a recipe, read a novel, report the weather, and play trivia with the senior client.  ElliQ can even remind seniors to take their medication and keep track of their blood pressure. 

Director Greg Olsen of the New York State Office for the Aging says his agency distributes the units free of charge to seniors who are screened for isolation.  They go to people who live independently in their own home and who aren’t part of senior residential communities or nursing homes.  They go to people who are feeling socially isolated at home.

Our producer Paul Larson spoke with Olsen about the ElliQ units and companion pets.

The animatronic pets offer interaction without making a mess or needing to be fed.

Photo courtesy: New York State Office for the Aging

The New York State Office for the Aging has distributed more than 600 ElliQ devices since 2022, and has overseen the delivery of 27 thousand animatronic pets since 2018.  These efforts are funded in the state budget to help address social isolation.  Recipients do not pay for these items.  They are identified as needing the devices by aging services professionals who see their clients as being in danger of loneliness through a social isolation screening process.  

Photo courtesy: New York State Office for the Aging

For people who have not been contacted about receiving the items free of charge, there are options available.  

Ageless Innovation produces the Joy for All Companion Pets.  Find out about purchasing a pet by visiting joyforall.com.  The 20% discount code for New York State residents is NYS20. 

ElliQ is also available for purchase at elliq.com.  

New York State residents, if you have any questions about the companion pets or ElliQ, you are welcome to contact the Office for the Aging in your county. 

Clinton:  518-565-4620

Essex:  518-873-3695

Franklin:  518-481-1526

Hamilton:  518-761-6347

St. Lawrence:  315-379-9806

Warren:  518-761-6347

Additional photo courtesy of Ageless Innovation.