Cognitive Computing – Artificial Intelligence Benefits for Seniors

Man and machines…

Smartphone and global communications…


We have, up to this point, had decades of benefits accrued through computing — but what innovations will push the envelope for our seniors?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the information of science.

AI is misunderstood and glamorized by some, making it out to be something other than what it really is.

It gives us the ability to use computers to perform tasks that usually require human intelligence.

What was dubbed “artificial” is coming to be more appropriately thought to be cognitive intelligence, giving us tremendous benefits in all fields including aging, health, and safety.

Cognitive computing is using a computer system or application to mimic the way our brains work – our thought process.

Benefits of Cognitive Computing

Seniors and family caregivers will, both now and in the long run, benefit from applications of cognitive computing.

Using cognitive computing applications, we will be able to solve problems without needing a person, which would otherwise delay an aspect of care and/or add to the cost of care.

Sounds kind of like science fiction but it is reality.

Here are some ways we use cognitive computing:

  • Language processing and voice activation
  • Algorithms that learn and adapt based on their learning
  • Image recognition, computer vision (computers identifying objects or images)
  • Spatial awareness
  • Reasoning and decision automation
  • Noise filtering
  • Robotic controlled neural networks

Cognitive computing is helping to drive the Internet Of Things (IoT). The IoT is helping our seniors live more independently safely at home through the use of monitoring and sensing devices.

This field is ever-expanding to find solutions to problems faced by seniors aging in place.

Aging Implications

One expert postulated that using speech recognition as a measure of predictability in health could lead to earlier diagnosis of a variety of diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s.

Why is this important? Perhaps we won’t be able to find a cure (yet) but we can certainly improve the quality of a person’s life with earlier diagnosis and lifestyle interventions.

Using cognitive computing may make some decisions easier for aging adults, especially with regards to their well-being and safety in their own homes.

Computer vision, one cognitive computing task, has the capability to help improve diagnosis and treatment of diseases.

Robotics can work alongside people to perform many different tasks, including some caregiving duties.

Machine learning through cognitive computing is also helping pharmaceutical companies identify drugs that could help people with chronic conditions by understanding compounds and their effects.

New products that make the job of caregivers easier such as a Roomba vacuum cleaner or that can help keep seniors safe at home, such as a Nest thermostat or Ring doorbell monitor are using technology to improve the lives of caregivers and seniors.

Why Now?

With all the technology innovations coming to the forefront and the increasing use of sensing devices throughout the world, we are quickly compiling a large (perhaps overwhelming) amount of modern data.

  • We know where the traffic is the worst on our roadways to avoid delays
  • We can tell where the air quality is poor due to smog
  • We know when the pollen is too high for vulnerable individuals
  • We know when an older person’s daily pattern of movement is changing, potentially indicating a physical problem
  • We know how many steps people who are healthy take each day compared to those who have heart conditions
  • We can detect fraud on credit card purchases
  • We can track our vital signs sharing them with a variety of people

The amount of data we are collecting in many ways and places has given scientists a vast bank of data to help uncover new ideas and interventions to improve all our lives including our senior loved ones.

The stumbling blocks could be having open data sets so that researchers have access to the information they need but this also opens us up to privacy concerns.

Examples of AI Available Now

Here are a few types of AI or cognitive computing applications that you and your senior may have seen or are even using today.


Did you see Watson play Jeopardy?

Cognitive computing platform developed by IBM. It is not meant to replace a human but instead interact with humans to be better together.

It is a computer that understands all types of data and has the capability of learning.

It can answer questions, process data, obtain information from documents quickly, and find patterns in the data. After its analysis, it can come up with answers and solutions to issues based on its learning.

There is a version called Watson Health that is finding solutions in health data. It is capable of reading 40 million documents in 15 seconds. It can take symptoms and create interventions to improve health of the person in question helping health practitioners solve your senior’s problems. It gives healthcare providers confidence in the course of treatment and all the options available.

One application using Watson Health is monitoring blood sugars using insulin pumps so that dangerous changes in blood sugar can be predicted hours in advance so that an action can be taken to prevent it.

Alexa Enabled Echo by Amazon

A voice activated personal assistant for your home, Echo Enabled Alexa by Amazon hands-free speaker can control the lights, turn on music, adjust the thermostat, order pizza, read an audiobook, give weather and news updates, tell your senior what the schedule for the day is according to their own calendar and answer any of your senior’s questions over and over again whenever asked.

It can pick up the sound of your voice from across the room.

There are many uses currently with many more applications on the horizon. The device has paired with other devices that allow it to meet our ever increasing needs with more coming.

It could provide safety features for aging in place seniors that caregivers will appreciate.


Have you or your senior used the virtual voice assistant that comes on your smartphone or home computer? She is artificial intelligence using voice recognition technology who adapts to your voice and language.

Siri is a computerized personal assistant that can help answer questions and do tasks that you ask. No typing required! The more you or your senior uses it, the better she understands you.

You may also have Cortana on your computer, which will do the same thing as Siri does on your iOS smartphone.

The better these products function, the more accurate they become, the more interoperable they are made so that they will integrate with each other, being user-friendly, and the ability to be priced within reach of caregivers will only mean that we will see more and more of these cognitive computing solutions in the homes of our seniors.

As family caregivers, we can help prepare our seniors so these beneficial solutions will be welcomed into their homes.