Talking dog saves senior, inspires startup GeriJoy to provide improved senior supervision and emergency alerts through its virtual elder care companion.
Every year, more than 500,000 Americans aged 60 and older experience abuse, neglect and/or self-neglect with most elder abuse occurring in the family home. GeriJoy, the MIT startup that provides virtual senior companion care services, will be incorporating more supervisory and emergency alert functionalities into its service in response to a recent incident in which the company’s virtual talking dogs saved a home-bound senior from an abusive paid caregiver.
“A GeriJoy staff member was alerted to particularly loud volume being passively detected by Ruffy, and assumed control of Ruffy — this started the full audio-video stream from Ruffy’s tablet to the staff member’s computer and changed Ruffy’s visual appearance on the tablet to an alert state, looking out into the world. The GeriJoy staff member heard the paid caregiver repeatedly screaming at the senior to get ready for the day program.
Through the companion, the GeriJoy staff member tried asking if everything was alright, but received no response from either the caregiver or John. We launched an investigation using our previous log entries and determined that this was just the most obvious instance of verbal abuse, and that the paid caregiver had a previous history of using negative tones of voice toward the senior.”
GeriJoy reported the abuse to the customer, who was very grateful and replaced the caregiver that week.
Mr. Wang, an MIT-graduate who researched human-computer interaction for NASA’s telerobotics program, commented in a statement for the press, “Events like these make me so proud of our team at GeriJoy and the mission that we are on, to improve life for elders and their families through friendly technology.”
Backed by investors such as Blueprint Health and Esther Dyson, Gerijoy’s innovative solution has already been touted by organizations like AARP and TEDMED as one of the most innovative solutions on the market. Wang says that their team is always learning and always improving their service based on how their customers integrate GeriJoy Companions into their families.
To date, GeriJoy’s home companion services for elderly people have been more focused on the companionship and emotional health benefits of its service. Research shows that loneliness in the elderly is a significant risk factor for geriatric depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and other functional decline.
“Besides serving as a friend and conversational companion, a GeriJoy Companion can provide always-available supervision, actively call out to the elder to check if things are okay, and if not, intelligently contact caregivers and emergency services,” said Wang.
He also announced that in the coming weeks and months, GeriJoy is planning on developing their service and technology to improve supervisory and emergency response capabilities, not just for preventing elder abuse, but also for health-related events and accidents such as falls.
Wang is currently in Washington, DC this week at the TEDMED 2013 conference, the annual multi-disciplinary gathering where 1,500+ leaders from all sectors of society come together to explore the promise of technology and potential of human achievement in health and medicine. He will be giving a talk on Friday.