That's... a little bit grim.
More than 800 new robot buddies are headed to their new homes as companions for New York's senior citizens.
Smithsonian Magazine reported last week that the bots, called ElliQ, and were designed to assist people 65 and older who live alone. Much like Siri and Alexa, ElliQ can answer questions, make small talk, set reminders and more.
"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.," Greg Olsen, director of the New York State Office for the Aging, told The Verge last month. "It focuses on what matters to individuals: memories, life validation, interactions with friends and families and promotes overall good health and well-being."
Loneliness is an epidemic for seniors.
An NYSOFA press briefing about the robots published last month estimated that the health consequences of loneliness and isolation are equivalent to smoking almost a pack of cigarettes daily, and that's a grim daily reality for many of America's elders.
Of course, there are many ways family and community members can support a lonely elder without the assistant of a robot, from starting new hobbies with them to asking them to teach you a new skill.
It's easy to imagine ElliQ will provide some help and comfort to lonely seniors, but do you leave your own mental health up to Siri and Alexa? Talking to our neighbors and asking city employees to engage in welfare checks is surely more effective and possibly even less expensive.
Could the money spent on 800 robots not have been given to real people to have real human interactions with our elders? Just a wild thought, folks.
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