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AI Ageism Could Be Hurting Senior Care


The senior care industry is constantly evaluating new trends in technology and figuring out how to implement these advancements into its own policies and operations to improve healthcare for seniors. Artificial intelligence (AI) is one application proven to be particularly effective at giving skilled nursing facilities and other long-term care centers the tools to enhance their treatment and diagnostic options for their residents.

We revere artificial intelligence for its many benefits, but we must also be aware of its potential pitfalls. AI can enhance the health, care, and well-being of seniors, but it can also exacerbate the ageism already present in today’s society by undermining the care these individuals receive. The data AI collects can often be inconsistent, inaccurate, and prejudiced by past stereotypes. This can happen when technology is left unchecked, which Bent Philipson, the founder of Philosophy Care, believes is incredibly dangerous.

Last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a policy brief that shared what can be done to eliminate ageism from AI. They provided eight considerations that should be in place when creating and implementing AI in senior care to ensure that older adults are top-of-mind in the technological decisions that will ultimately impact them.

  1. Artificial intelligence must be developed by and with seniors;
  2. Data science teams working on AI should be age-diverse;
  3. Developers must ensure AI data is age-inclusive;
  4. Investments must be made in digital literacy and digital infrastructure for seniors and their medical teams;
  5. Seniors should have the right to challenge and consent to AI’s usage in their care;
  6. Governance regulations must empower teams to work with seniors;
  7. Increased research efforts should help individuals understand new uses of artificial intelligence and how to prevent bias;
  8. Ethics processes should be present in the development of AI applications.

These considerations help remove ageism from AI technologies so that older adults can enjoy the same benefits other generations already receive from artificial intelligence.

Traditionally, it’s been assumed that older adults have no desire to interact or live with technology. Bent Philipson knows this couldn’t be further from the truth. His consulting firm works with skilled nursing facilities throughout New York and New Jersey and a significant number of their residents are interested in and excited by AI and how it’s being leveraged within their care. 

“The senior care industry must stop discouraging seniors from utilizing artificial intelligence and any technology really,” Bent said. “If they are inefficient with it, it’s only because they have not been familiarized with it — and that’s no fault of theirs.”

One of the biggest errors of AI development is that seniors have had little to no input on the matter. Even the voices of the few who wish to give feedback tend to fall on deaf ears. For artificial intelligence to evolve in the right direction, especially as it pertains to the healthcare sector, Bent Philiipson believes there needs to be more diversity. Underrepresentation can sabotage the intended benefits of artificial intelligence. The more diligent the industry is about being intentional in the creation of AI, the more powerful its impact will be in our lives.

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