Tech giant promotes AI care solutions for China’s senior citizens

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According to data released by the Ministry of Civil Affairs, by 2025 China will have more than 300 million senior citizens, accounting for over 20 percent of the total population. In an effort to make life easier for elderly people, internet giant Baidu launched its “Wufu AI elderly-aid plan” along with a national campaign for smart elderly-care in Beijing on Aug 11. Experts in related fields attended the activity and provided ideas and suggestions to help remedy the current situation.

Du Jun, director of both Baidu’s public welfare department and the Center for Science, Technology and Social Research, said that the development of technology has created a digital divide between the old and young. “Baidu Wufu AI elderly-aid plan was launched with the aim of enabling senior citizens to access technology,” he said. Du also stressed that using AI to help the elderly will be Baidu’s future focus for its public welfare initiatives.

“The company’s actions will be guided by an elderly-aid system focusing on five service sectors: longevity, health, companionship, happiness, and community. As a leading AI company with a strong internet base, it is Baidu’s responsibility to provide more innovative and technological solutions for China’s aging society,” said Du.

Zhang Yimin, director of the Key Laboratory of the Ministry of Education of Beijing Sport University, said that he believed that smart elderly-care systems can greatly change the lifestyles of older people and help them to be more self-disciplined and maintain good habits.

Cui Wei, executive director of the Center for Public Interest Communication Research at the Communication University of China, also took part in the event.

“The suppliers of elderly-care services should aim for sustainable service models by linking online and offline resources to form a closed loop and perhaps even a complete ecosystem,” he said. “Also, they should minimize the requirements for accessing services and ensure users’ data security. The possibilities that AI technology brings to the smart elderly-care sector are limitless,” argued Cui.

Zhang Junhu, secretary general of the China Aged Career Development Foundation, proposed that  distinctions should be made between elderly people due to their varying needs and ability to use new technologies. He also emphasized the importance of volunteers in helping to provide care services.

“Many people are involved. Especially in communities, the relatively younger elderly people are energetically volunteering to help the older ones. Furthermore, the establishment of an effective voluntary service mechanism and the introduction of core technologies in smart elderly-care are bound to empower volunteers and enable the provision of more services.”

Olympic champion Chen Yibing was a special guest at the event. He outlined the best ways for elderly people to keep fit, arguing that they should start with a very basic exercise routine – a plan he termed “Chen Yibing Minimalist Exercise”.

In order to mark the start of the national campaign, eight cities across the country are set to adopt smart elderly-care services by the end of the year. The designated cities will also receive a donation of customized AI smart devices from Baidu. Users will be able to interact with the devices using voice commands, allowing them to access services including health management, exercise plans, and entertainment. Meanwhile, Baidu will provide free online consultation services so that the elderly can enjoy online health counseling from medical professionals.