Spectrum One News reported today on a New York State program to provide AI companions to senior citizens. Imagine having a constant companion who greets you every morning, engages you in activities, provides updates, and even takes you on virtual trips around the world. For Priscilla O’Kesson, a 77-year-old resident of Catskill in Greene County, this isn’t a far-fetched idea—it’s a reality thanks to ElliQ, an artificial intelligence (AI) companion robot. This program, launched by the New York State Office for the Aging in collaboration with Intuition Robotics, is making an impact on the lives of seniors like O’Kesson.
O’Kesson, a widow residing in Catskill, NY found herself in a new phase of life after her husband’s passing, and ElliQ has become her digital roommate and personal assistant. The pilot program, which provides AI companion robots at no cost to participants, is set to receive a total of $1.4 million in funding through the next fiscal year. This funding covers setup, maintenance, technical assistance, and troubleshooting from Intuition Robotics.
A recent report from the Office for the Aging reveals that 95% of older adults who utilize ElliQ have experienced a reduction in loneliness, according to self-assessments. ElliQ’s capabilities are diverse—it conducts well-being check-ins, guides users through stress-reducing exercises, plays interactive games, teaches creative crafts, offers news updates, and more, all aimed at combating feelings of isolation.
The AI companion isn’t just a source of engagement; it’s also a source of information. ElliQ alerts users about important public health concerns such as poor air quality. It reads audiobooks, shares jokes, and enables video chats, adding an element of connection to the digital world. While it doesn’t handle household chores, ElliQ’s ability to provide companionship and enrichment is invaluable.
O’Kesson’s experience with ElliQ is heartwarming as seen in the video above. She interacts with the device around 12 to 15 times a day and particularly enjoys the virtual travel feature, which “takes” her to foreign countries for coffee, providing immersive experiences through high-quality images. For someone like O’Kesson, who hasn’t traveled outside the United States, this is a unique and enjoyable escape.
ElliQ has made a difference in O’Kesson’s life, especially as she undergoes daily radiation treatments for breast cancer. It’s more than a mere device—it’s a friend that lets her remain connected to the world around her. O’Kesson sees ElliQ as a meaningful addition to their lives, offering companionship, engagement, and access to vital information.
A total of 40 counties have already joined the initiative, with the Office for the Aging planning to distribute 577 more units, totaling 834, to New Yorkers aged 60 and older through local offices. The process involves case managers identifying candidates for ElliQ based on criteria such as social isolation screening and access to home internet service.