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Chatbots and conversational AI offer help with finding care

Chatbots can be helpful to older adults and families. As part of research on the Future of AI and Older Adults, interviewees are talking about the potential role of chatbots – and why they should matter. Not surprisingly, a search for ‘chatbots and older adults’ reveals research studies targeting those aged 60+, startup investment, for example, Lena, which evolved into Lena Health for scheduling appointments, and a small study about what makes a compelling chatbot. But for older adults  or families who hesitant about searching for information or frustrated with online sites or call trees, chatbots can be the ideal solution. They can also boost tech confidence and user self-sufficiency. Although the real purpose of chatbots is to save response center labor and boost efficiency – they should help the user get what they need. Consider that:

  • They should be relevant to the task underway. For example, they can offer a step-by-step guide AND save staff labor. Sunrise Senior Living’s chatbot offers a list of choices -- ‘find care for myself’ or ‘browsing options for senior living’ -- all of which could lead to an answer that does not require a phone call or further searching. Carlton Senior Living’s chatbot named Ana offers a similar list of search options, including scheduling a visit. Brennity Senior Living, where a close relative once lived, is terse. The chatbot isn’t labeled as such, but clicking on it gives you the choice of calling, scheduling a tour, or emailing.
  • They should not mislead you into thinking that ‘chat live now’ means it. After entering the first screening question on one national home health site, one would think that would get to ‘chat live’ but there were more screening questions. And neither Home Instead nor Right at Home offer a chatbot. In fact, Right at Home’s site has only two tabs – and they get right to the point – Find Care or Find Jobs.
  • They should answer the question. Human Good jumps right into live chat about finding a community. But then it baffles, since its home page also offers a ‘Find a community’ option, and the screening questions (‘what state, what is most important’) were timewasters when the question asked of the chat operator was about availability in a specific location. On the other hand, GetSetUp responded to the chat request ‘training about smartphones’ with the quick ‘iPhone or Android’ and then after a few seconds suggested ‘iPhone Tips and Tricks.’

But will chatbots be yesterday’s news? Finally, these chatbots may find themselves obsoleted by conversational AI tools like BingChat’s “Ask me Anything” responding to a question about the senior living locations in a specific town after which it suggests asking multiple follow-up questions, including cost and services offered, like memory care,and then answers with references sourced. No contact info, though, so at some point the user is sent off to the source websites. But for those who are unsure even of the question, the responses are very, uh, chatty.



I don’t think it’s an either/or when it comes to chatbots and LLM-powered conversational AI. I think the chatbot examples you cite will, or should, at some point incorporate more of the power of LLMs to better understand the person’s request and provide useful answers. Those answers could be tailored based on the community the person is inquiring about. Lots of possibilities!

Laurie: Once again, thank you for this timely post on the possible use of existing tech solutions to address aginginplace and accessability.