Mar 14, 2023

New study shows AI in aged care homes increases ageism and social inequality

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A new study from Monash University has found that introducing artificial intelligence (AI) into aged care homes can have a detrimental impact on the wellbeing of residents. (Image: Shutterstock)

A new study from Monash University has found that introducing artificial intelligence (AI) into aged care homes can have a detrimental impact on the wellbeing of residents.

While AI has the potential to assist with care services and address issues such as loneliness and medical assessments, the study found that the implementation of AI in aged care can exacerbate ageist views and social inequality.

The study highlights the need for more consideration to be given to how older people are viewed in the design and implementation of AI technologies. 

Lead author, Doctor Barbara Barbosa Neves, explains that, “AI can perpetuate ageism and exacerbate existing social inequalities… When implementing AI technologies in aged care, we must consider them as part of a suite of care services and not as isolated solutions”.

The study identified that ageism can be generated by the design of AI technologies, with views about older people being seen as dependent, incompetent, and disinterested in technology. This ignores the fact that many older people are interested in technology and may even be early adopters of new technologies.

The study also found that AI developers and aged care staff often assume that older people lack the interest and/or capacity to use the technology. This not only ignores the need to be accessible and non-discriminatory to aged care residents, but also perpetuates stereotypes about aged care residents.

The study highlights the need to change stereotypes about aged care residents and the attitudes of staff, and to create technologies that are designed for and inclusive of older people.

The use of AI in aged care has been met with criticism from aged care staff and advocates who are concerned about the potential for robots to replace humans and the issue of responsibility for machinery failures. 

“The use of AI in aged care must be done with consideration of the potential impact of these technologies on well-being, autonomy, and dignity of older residents,” Dr Neves said.

This study is particularly relevant in the context of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, which emphasised the need to prioritise the autonomy and dignity of older people in care. 

As AI continues to be developed and implemented in aged care settings, it is essential that care providers ensure that these technologies are designed with older people in mind and used as part of a holistic suite of care services. By doing so, aged care providers can ensure that AI is used to enhance the care of older people, rather than exacerbating ageist views and social inequality.

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  1. How surprising, most AI based programs are designed by white middle aged men so it will always be fraught with problems and not only for the elderly.
    It has its uses but not for everything.

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