Empowering and Integrating Senior Citizens with Virtual Coaching
With Europes aging population and an increasing number of older people living alone or geographically distant from kin, loneliness is turning into a prevalent issue. This might involve deleterious consequences for both the older person and society, such as depression and increased use of healthcare services. Virtual coaches that act as friend in a para-social relationship but also as mentor that helps the elderly end- user to create meaningful relationships in his actual social environment are a powerful method to overcome loneliness and increase the quality of life in the elderly population.The AAL Joint Programme projects A2E2 (AAL-2008-1-071) and V2me (AAL-2009-2-107) are exploring virtual coaches and their application in AAL scenarios, including the use of user avatars, virtual self-representations that allow the user to be represented in communication scenarios. Other European research projects that focus on social integration of the elderly are e.g. ALICE (AAL-2009-2-091) or WeCare (AAL-2009-2-026). Outside the European Union the negative implications of population aging can be observed in Japan, having an even larger proportion of senior citizens, using individual-centred devices, such as robot pets,1 to improve the quality of life of lonely elderly persons.
The user groups involved often are not acquainted with modern ICT systems and therefore it is a challenge to create intuitive, adaptive platforms that cater to the individual needs and allow the user to interact easily.