Growing older while living alone can be an extremely isolating experience.

As we age, a number of our physical and mental capabilities can diminish, which can affect our ability to be mobile and socialise.

Sadly, there are thousands of elderly people in their homes right now who will not hear the voice of another person today, and there are many instances of people not having any meaningful interaction for weeks at a time.

Feeling isolated to this degree can have a devastating effect on a person’s self-esteem and result in things like loneliness, depression, and even suicide.

Nothing will ever replace loving interactions with family and friends, but unfortunately for some elderly people, these types of moments don’t happen frequently enough to stave off the issues that can come with being socially isolated; which increases the need for new ideas and innovative thinking to try and combat these issues.

Memory Lane is a groundbreaking voice-assisted engagement software that utilises artificial intelligence to interact with elderly people and capture their life stories.

Created in a partnership between Accenture Interactive and Swedish energy supplier Stockholm Exergi, Memory lane works by asking a user questions about their lives, and then uses their answers to formulate even more intelligent questions to delve into a topic in a very conversational and humanistic way.

The answers to these questions eventually start to take shape and result in an audible biography of that person’s life and these recorded memories can then be turned over to a writer of that person’s choosing, or, the AI can turn the memories into a written biography by itself that can be printed.

Memory Lane even has the ability to structure the users recorded memories into chronological order to create an audio version of their life story in the form of a podcast.

The way in which Memory Lane gathers its information is also unique; rather than requiring the user to sit down to record in allotted time periods, this software remembers what a user has spoken about before, so it can be used over several days or weeks,  it can also structure the memories via an accurate timeline or by level of importance.

Although still only a prototype, Memory Lane was tested on 10 people over the age of 70 in Sweden over a number of weeks, and was hooked up to a smart home hub’s like Google Home and Amazon Alexa.

The hubs were placed in quiet resting spaces within the trial participants home where the AI of  Memory Lane is able to learn the person’s likes, dislikes, and other elements of their personality through other interactions that they have throughout the day.

It impossible to overstate just how positive of an impact that this software may have on the user and their families.

A number of the experiences that we have throughout our life become hallmark moments that define who we are as people because they are a constant factor in shaping who we eventually become.

Old age is the living, breathing, culmination of these experiences, and the memories of that lifetime let us know who we are as individuals.

Having these memories documented give families a keepsake that can be cherished and simultaneously gives the elderly person a chance to recall things from their past that would have otherwise been lost to time.

And while anything other than meaningful human contact should be seen as a short term aid for the prevention of social isolation, anything that helps to engage a lonely elderly person can only be seen as a positive thing.

Because having a story to tell is great, but knowing that someone else wants to hear that story is even more important.

 

Photo courtesy of Design Week.

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