Older adult interacting with ElliQ robot
ElliQ is an empathetic care companion designed for older adults aging independently at home. (Image courtesy of Intuition Robotics)
Older adult interacting with ElliQ robot
ElliQ is an empathetic care companion designed for older adults aging independently at home. (Image courtesy of Intuition Robotics)

A tabletop robot designed specifically for older adults is making its way into the homes of 800 New York residents, including those who live in senior living communities.

The New York State Office for the Aging is partnering with Israel-based Intuition Robotics to place ElliQ artificial intelligence-powered robotic companions into independent living and assisted living communities as well as other homes of older adults.

The robot communicates with older adults similarly to the way that Amazon’s Alexa does, but it can empathize with humans and respond to voice and body movements, according to the company. Although other technologies are reactive to commands, ElliiQ proactively suggests activities and initiates conversations, building context through artificial intelligence to inform follow-up conversations.

The smart technology might offer sleep relaxation exercise, physical exercises, in-depth nutrition-related conversations, and medication reminders.

New York case managers will evaluate clients and nominate those who would benefit from ElliQ. Intuition Robotics will work with those individuals to help them install and learn how to use the devices. Those who receive the robotic companions will be able to keep them indefinitely.

“This product does so many things to improve health, combat isolation and improve overall well-being and independence,” NYSOFA Director Greg Olsen said in a statement. “The future is here.”

New York State’s fiscal year 2023 budget includes $2.9 million for NYSOFA initiatives to combat social isolation and offer new or expanded innovations in aging services. In addition to funding ElliQ, this support includes an animatronic pet initiative, ride-hailing services for older adults, and online communities that provide facilitator-led classes and services.

Pilot program

ElliQ has been in a beta pilot program for almost two years, including partnerships with United Church Homes and Western Home communities, to test the devices in residents’ homes. 

According to the pilot data, users interacted with the device an average of 20 times per day for 20 minutes total per day. The most popular functions used were the health / wellness and companionship features. The data showed that users accepted ElliQ’s proactive suggestions 60% of the time, with 95% of users completing the suggested activity.

Robots in senior living aren’t new.

The Council on Aging-Southern California in 2021 bought 200 robotic cats and dogs to distribute to assisted living residents, focusing on memory care units, to provide companionship and an escape from the isolation of the pandemic.

The Florida Department of Elder Affairs partnered with Ageless Innovation to distribute robotic pets to 375 residents living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias in 2020. The company also partnered with the Association on Aging in New York to provide more than 1,100 robotics pets throughout the state to older adults. 

Ohio Living Westminster-Thurber in Columbus, OH, and Chapel Hill Community, a United Church Homes life plan community in Canal Fulton, OH, also participated in a trial aimed at curbing loneliness and apathy using socially assistive robots. 

During the pandemic, Connecticut-based Maplewood Senior Living introduced robot “friends” to its communities. The Temi personal robots came with pre-configured tablets, Alexa-enabled skills, a TV channel with programming designed for seniors, and a smartphone app to help residents stay connected with family and friends.

Williamsburg Landing in Virginia won a Gold award in the 2020 McKnight’s Excellence in Technology Awards for its use of Temi robots to engage with and stimulate residents during the pandemic.

Read more about ElliQ in sister publication McKnight’s Home Care.

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This article originally appeared on McKnight's Senior Living