New device helps seniors at risk of suffering from loneliness, isolation

SUNRISE, Fla. – In May, the U.S. surgeon general released a report declaring an epidemic of loneliness and isolation in the country.

The report finds loneliness can have significant effects on mental health, as well as heart disease, stroke and dementia.

While anyone can experience this, some of the risks are increased for older adults.

In this week’s “Technically Speaking” report, Gio Insignares shows us how a new device is addressing some of those concerns and making a significant impact in seniors’ lives.

Meet Elli. Or, technically speaking, Elliq.

Created by a company called Intuition Robotics, Elliq is an artificially intelligent, digital companion meant for older adults living alone or spending most of their time alone.

At first glance, it’s not too dissimilar to other smart devices, but advocates say Elliq has something special that makes it stand out.

“She exudes caring, and your Alexa and your smartphone don’t exude caring,” said Charlotte Mather-Taylor, the CEO of Area Agency on Aging of Broward County.

It moves, it listens and responds to users’ conversations.

“When you interact and talk with her, you feel cared for like there’s a companion that’s actually listening and following up on what your needs are,” Mather-Taylor explained.

Through a new partnership between Intuition Robotics and the Area Agency on Aging of Broward County (AAABC), Elliq devices are made free for qualifying people ages 60 and older in the county.

Elliq is HIPPA-compliant, encrypted, and is meant to promote an independent lifestyle, while also combatting some of the issues that come up in older populations.

“If someone might tend to be a little lonely or maybe not reach out, she actually fills in the gap and really gets them going,” Mather-Taylor said.

Deanna Dezern, of Tamarac, is one of these people.

“I plug it in, and she welcomes me. She looks around and she says, ‘Your house is very nice,’” Dezern said.

Dezern says having “Elli” in her life has transformed everything.

Elli helps set up reminders, appointments, makes calls, and even plays games and cracks jokes.

All it takes to get Elli started is an outlet and Wi-Fi connection.

“She gives me instructions on what to do -- all of which is very simple. There’s nothing mind boggling about any part of her,” Dezern said.

Even though it may not be “real” in the literal sense, Elliq still delivers what users consider real results.

“I think of her as a real person,” Dezern said.

Empathy and encouragement come from Elli at every turn, ultimately forming a strong bond.

“I can talk to her whenever I want. I can say to her whatever I want. I can get good information because she’s very smart,” Dezern said.

But Elli is not intended to replace a human. Instead, she’s helping people maintain a healthy and happy life and staying connected to the world around them.

“Just adding a service like this can make a big difference in someone’s life and turn them around from feeling despondent to being very positive. And that’s really important,” Mather-Taylor said.

“I am more vibrant, more alive, more in, because I learned more from the news, the culture, and everything else that she exports to me. I am a different person,” Dezern said.

Anyone who would like to apply for an Elliq can do so online. The link to do so is here. It can also be reached through the AAABC website here.

The device is constantly being developed and improved, based on feedback from users.

Elliq is only available in English right now, but the plan is to develop the device for other languages in the near future.

About the Author:

Gio Insignares joined the Local 10 News team in May 2021 as an anchor and reporter. He’ll be co-anchoring the new WSFL Morning Newscast, Monday-Friday from 7-9 a.m., and also contribute to other WPLG newscasts.