Ask Joan: Learning how AI can help in daily life
February 26, 2024

Q. I’ve been hearing a lot about artificial intelligence in the news, and it sounds a lot like something out of science fiction movies. My kids recently gave me a digital assistant (a voice-activated device connected to the internet) for my home and told me it may be helpful since I live alone. It seems a little intimidating. What do you think?

A. Artificial Intelligence does sound a little like science fiction, and there are still lots of unknowns about the future of AI and how it can be used. However, it’s already part of our lives in ways we may not even realize.

AI, according to experts, uses machines to replicate human intelligence to learn how to perform different tasks. For example, if you open your smart phone using facial recognition, that uses AI. It’s also behind the scenes personalizing what you see on social media and figuring out what to show you when you do a search online.

Robot vacuum cleaners, devices like the FitBit and Apple watch, and digital assistants like Siri from Apple or Alexa from Amazon all use AI. These devices can answer questions, give search information, monitor your health, perform actions like setting alarms, playing music, shopping online, and more.

Like your children mentioned, AI is being used to help older adults stay in their homes through healthcare, fall detection and safety, social interaction, mental health, personalized care, and emergency response applications.

AI is in many products that help people who need assistance with daily tasks or who want additional companionship, according to a recent article in Next Avenue. Voice-controlled home devices can also be programmed to remind you to pay a bill or return a call, turn on lights, adjust the temperature, or lock doors. Virtual “pets” are also providing companionship using AI.

These “pets” live on your tablet computer and provide reminders to take medication, drink water, or increase socialization by playing a game or listening to music.

Video doorbells are another popular device. They have motion-activated cameras and two-way speakers so you can see and hear someone at your door without getting up. Family members and caregivers can also check the home online.

This could be life saving for many, especially those who live alone, and according to the Pew Research Center, 37% of people aged 60 and older in the U.S. live alone.

Still there are some precautions to consider around AI, such as understanding how your personal information is being used and stored and recognizing its limitations. It’s a lot to take in – I know it is for me.

Don’t be afraid to seek out assistance. Our Digital Access Program offers a free tablet computer (per household), online training, and can help answer questions. Contact our Digital Access Coordinator Chelsea St. Jean at 978-651-3097 or email

It’s good to stay curious and learn how these devices might be able to enhance your life. Good luck!

Are you caring for an older adult or need help locating healthy aging resources? Our experienced staff is available to help. Visit us online at for more information. You can also call us at 800-892-0890 or email Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of AgeSpan.

First published in the Eagle-Tribune.

Resize text-+=