Artificial Intelligence: Not Just Sci-Fi Anymore

We baby boomers often have a fixed notion of artificial intelligence (AI), thanks to Hal, the deranged AI computer from 2001 A Space Odyssey. But AI isn’t a science fiction nightmare. Instead, it’s a useful tool. And AI applications built for Baby Boomers can help us thrive in our Third Chapter lives.

It’s Already Here

AI is a form of computing that learns and makes decisions on its own. Before you say, “That’s too scary,” hang on — it’s already making your life easier. Certain automated grocery shopping, personal finance management, and medical devices are AI driven. Those blueberries show up on your “recommended” list in your grocery store app because you’ve purchased them many times and enjoyed them! Your Apple Watch or other wearable device uses AI to track such vitals as heart rate and blood pressure. Your telehealth appointment when you had the flu? Thank AI (and the pandemic!) for the ability to connect to your health professional. The recommendations in your music app? AI-driven.

The potential benefits of AI for Baby Boomers is everywhere. AI has many applications — from healthcare and personal recommendations for books or favorite movies to assistive technology for people with disability issues, and home automation to keep lighting, heating, cooling, and home appliances safe and operating efficiently. But there’s even more ahead.

‘Computer, How Do I … ?’

One of the newer developments in AI is ChatGPT. ChatGPT uses a form of AI technology called “natural language processing” that enables computers to understand and respond to human language. ChatGPT also uses “deep learning,” which basically means that the more you interact with ChatGPT, the more it learns and the better and more accurately it can answer your questions. Put simply, ChatGPT gets to know you. The technology encourages users to ask follow-up questions, which get answered in a way that builds on other information supplied.

While this may sound like something out of Star Trek, ChatGPT is not just a novelty. David Goldstein from the Boomer Buyer Guides equates ChatGPT to a virtual assistant. I delved into this topic last year when I discussed several programs now on the market that aid Baby Boomers at home.

Staying Connected To Others

In addition to simple tasks like medicine reminders, accessing movies or books, and appointment reminders, ChatGPT also helps users stay connected to the outside world. Not only does it facilitate users connecting with friends and family members, but  — as I referenced in the earlier blog — it can notify family members or medical professionals if a person living alone has fallen or has another health crisis.

AI doesn’t just operate in a vacuum devoid of other people. One of its main features is the ability to help older adults who may have mobility or other issues — or who may live a distance from loved ones — to easily stay in touch with others. The virtual entertainment and social interaction options made possible through ChatGPT can stave off feelings of isolation and depression, which benefits both physical and mental health.

‘GeekSpeak’ Not Required

Interestingly, you don’t need to be a computer geek to use the technology. Because the virtual assistants use natural language processing, all you have to do is talk to them. How do I know? Because I tested it. Goldstein’s article contains a link to a free version of ChatGPT specifically developed by Boomer Buyer Guides for people 55 and older. Named Summer, users can type in questions or statements — about anything. The article has a link allowing readers to try out Summer. Here is a sample of the test I ran, using unrelated questions and statements:

User: What is the best way to heal a burn from cooking?

Summer: Burns can be painful and irritating, so it’s important to take quick action to treat them properly. The first step is to run the burn under cool water for several minutes. After that, you can cover the burn with a sterile gauze or a clean cloth and apply an antibiotic cream to help the healing process. You should also avoid any activities that may irritate the burn, such as scrubbing or using hot water. Lastly, make sure to keep the area clean and dry, and see a doctor if the burn is large or you experience any other symptoms.

User: I’m thinking about moving into a smaller apartment. What’s the best way to downsize?

Summer: Downsizing can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be! Start by making a list of all of your belongings and cross off anything you don’t absolutely need. Consider donating or selling items you no longer need or want. If you need help deciding what to keep and what to let go, ask a friend or family member to help you with the process. Once you have your list of items to keep, research different apartments to find the perfect one for your needs. Good luck!

User: I’m feeling really down today.

Summer: Hi there. I’m sorry to hear that you’re feeling down. It’s normal to have highs and lows in life, and it’s ok to ask for help. Is there anything in particular that you’re feeling down about? It can help to talk to friends or family, or you can always reach out to a mental health professional if you’d like more help.

User: I miss seeing my friends.

Summer: I understand — it can be difficult to adjust to not seeing your friends as often. Have you tried looking into ways to stay connected? There are lots of online and virtual platforms where you can chat and connect with your friends, such as Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime. You can also look into local meetup groups or activities that are a good fit for you, so you can make some new friends and connect with people in your area.

Not bad for a general test! The possibilities offered by artificial intelligence computing are intriguing. AI could reopen doors that previously were shut due to a variety of aging issues. Such technology might just enhance our day-to-day activities as we pursue our Third Chapter dreams.

Third Chapter Living celebrates, challenges, informs and promotes conversations about housing issues affecting the Baby Boomer Generation. Check out our website to learn more about our work. Our Facebook Group is a resource center with tips and recommendations on navigating those issues. Share experiences with others who are looking for Housing Downsizing Tools that allow them to successfully age-in-place.

4 Comments

  1. Sarah on April 6, 2023 at 12:12 pm

    Hi Reese, this is really helpful. It helps me put AI in perspective. Have you seen the comments about AI in The Conversation today?

    • Reese Fayde on April 7, 2023 at 8:09 pm

      Sarah, glad the review was helpful. The applications and issues are complex, for sure. I will continue to seek examples of new technology that can positively support Baby Boomers’ efforts to successfully age in place. Thanks for the feedback!

  2. David Goldstein on April 6, 2023 at 4:18 pm

    Thank you for including Summer in your terrific article about AI, Reese! A few of the “special” things I taught Summer to do (or not do) include: 1. Never use agist language – meaning for example, don’t refer to users as “old.” 2. Assume that the user is either retired or near retirement. 3. Assume the user is physically and mentally healthy unless they tell you otherwise. I’d encourage your readers to spend some time playing with Summer. Ask questions that would be unique to Baby Boomers like “Can you provide me with a list of popular restaurants that offer discounts to seniors?” or “What are some activities I can do with my grandson?” And don’t stop at one question, ask follow-up questions – follow your curiosity and see how Summer tries to give useful answers. And after playing with it for a while, leave some feedback or ideas for improvement in the comment section or send me an email (the email address is on the Summer page.)

    • Reese Fayde on April 7, 2023 at 8:23 pm

      David, great info about the thinking behind Summer. I, and hopefully other readers, will follow our curiosity and really spend some time “dialoguing” with Summer. Let’s stay in touch!

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