We’ve written before about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which highlights humans’ need for love and belonging (in addition to food, water, and safety) in order to thrive. This desire for a sense of belonging includes forming connections with both individuals and our larger community.

According to Maslow, when all of these human needs are met, our quality of life, sense of fulfillment, and physical and mental health can improve. In other words, people need other people! So, it might surprise you to learn that a computer — or more specifically, a new artificial intelligence (AI) program — is helping older people form human connections, which can in turn boost seniors’ sense of wellbeing.

>> Related: How Psychology Impacts Motivations Behind a Senior Living Move

Artificial intelligence “learns” about seniors

TSOLife is a technology company that was originally created to collect and digitize older people’s life stories, preserving them for loved ones and future generations. The founder came to recognize the value that data collection (and the resultant artificial intelligence it can generate) could bring to other facets of seniors’ lives as well, specifically among residents of senior living communities.

The TSOLife team thus pivoted to create Minerva, an AI-based technology platform that uses the data collected during the new resident move-in interview to “enhance and individualize resident experiences.” The system uses voice-to-text functionality so that residents’ information is accurately collected and preserved, eliminating the need for manual data entry.

The data collected with Minerva can be used to create individual resident profiles — or “story walls” — within the system’s dashboard, complete with photos and videos. (You can see an example of a story wall here.) Using AI and predictive technology, Minerva’s information also can be utilized to inform changes to things like resident programming and services — all based on data about resident preferences, interests, goals, and needs.

One senior living provider has harnessed another valuable use for that data: forming human connections.

>> Related: Rediscovering Your Life’s Purpose Later in Retirement

Creating connections with AI

Benchmark operates 63 senior living communities throughout the Northeast, including independent living, assisted living, memory care, and continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs, or life plan communities).

Last year, Benchmark launched the “Something in Common” program, which utilizes the resident data collected within Minerva to identify residents’ interests and match them to not only community programs and activities but to neighbors and staff with shared interests or backgrounds.

Here’s how it works: When a new resident moves into a Benchmark community, they complete an audio-based interview using the Minerva platform. Those interviews are transcribed into text and uploaded into the system, yielding more than 80 datapoints about each resident’s interests and preferences.

This data is stored within the secure Minerva platform, where Benchmark employees who work on resident programming and activities can access it. The employee could, for example, sort the data for residents who were all raised in a certain city, who may enjoy getting together to share recollections from their childhood. Or they could sift the data for people who share a common hobby or interest, who may like to connect with each other.

>> Related: Another Study Finds Potential Health Benefits to Living in a CCRC

Harnessing AI to nurture belonging

Humans are naturally social creatures. We are not meant to live in isolation but rather in an environment that provides social and emotional support from others. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs highlights this innate need for a sense of belonging and community. What’s more, research has repeatedly shown the health benefits of a strong support system, as well as the harm caused by isolation and loneliness.

CCRCs and other senior living communities provide residents with numerous opportunities for socialization, as well as programs that nurture the mind, body, and spirit. For new residents in particular, having the ability to make connections based on shared interests or backgrounds can be integral to acclimating and forming new friendships.

Indeed, the formation of those close, supportive relationships is one of the many beneficial aspects of residing within a senior living community. Now, by harnessing the power of data and AI, CCRCs and other senior living communities have the ability to facilitate connections, which has the potential to improve seniors’ health and boost their happiness.


Photo credit: Tara Winstead via Pexels

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