23rd DIHAC cross-cultural exchange meeting analysis report

2024.07.02

Enhancing ageing in place applying the digital technologies: case study from the Republic of Korea and Singapore

Myat Yadana Kyaw, Nadila Mulati, Thet Htoo Pan, Karen Wee Siew Lin, Ok Sang-Houn,  Myo Nyein Aung, Moon Jeong Choi

Report in Japanese  Report in Thai 

Healthy Ageing, as defined by WHO, involves developing and maintaining the functional capacity of older adults, enabling them to meet their basic needs, maintain autonomy, and participate in society. [1]. Functional capacity consists of intrinsic capacity, the environment where seniors live, and the interaction between the two. As intrinsic capacity declines with age, the living environment can help maintain functional capacity with the aid of technologies. The 23rd DIHAC meeting explored how technological innovations in the immediate environment of older adults support healthy ageing in their communities. By examining examples from rapidly ageing countries like Singapore and South Korea, the meeting delved into the role of technology in promoting healthy and active ageing.

Professor Moon Jeong Choi, an associate professor from the Graduate School of Science and Technology Policy at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), United Nations ESCAP consultant chaired the meeting. Over thirty participants including multidisciplinary researchers, global health practitioners, health economists, medical doctors, nurses, social workers, policymakers, and graduate students from Japan, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, Singapore, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico and the UK attended the meeting.

Associate Professor, Dr. Myo Nyein Aung, principal investigator of the DIHAC research project ice-broke the meeting by socializing. Then the chairperson was welcomed to the stage for an opening speech. In her opening speech, Professor Choi highlighted that since the presentations were from a non-profit organization and a business cooperate, trans-sectoral and transcultural perspectives on the technology innovation for social inclusion could be discussed. As Asian countries are facing population ageing, challenges and opportunities of using digital technology for ageing care could be explored with stakeholders and researchers from multidisciplinary backgrounds.

Figure: Chairperson Professor Moon Choi, speakers, international audience and DIHAC study team at the 23rd DIHAC meeting

CLOVA CareCall: an AI-mediated Social Call in ROK

The first speaker was from the Naver Cloud Corp, which runs the largest search engine in the Republic of Korea. In this meeting, Mr. Sang Houn OK, Leader at AI SaaS business, Naver Cloud Corp updated their CLOVA CareCall, an AI-mediated Social Call[2] which was first introduced in 16th DIHAC meeting. This innovative service uses a large language model and artificial intelligence to combat social isolation among older adults living alone. With the growing elderly population, the issue of solitary deaths among seniors has become increasingly significant. The government of South Korea investigated various approaches to address this challenge and Naver developed the AI-mediated CLOVA CareCall. The CareCall is managed by the health or welfare managers in the local government or public health centers. Social calls are scheduled for older adults living alone and at risk of social isolation. The CareCall checks on the older adults by making a simple call and starting a natural conversation asking the older adults about their daily lives and health conditions. The call summary is generated and reported to the care managers. The highlight of this AI mediated CareCall is generating natural conversation allowing older adults to feel the human interaction and emotional care. The memory feature makes the older people feel they are being taken care of and remembered. Since its launch in 2021, the program has expanded to cover 120 urban areas, reaching 25,000 seniors, with over 90% user satisfaction. Looking ahead, the service aims to integrate personal health data for personalized care and support, establishing a comprehensive care system for older adults.

After the presentation from Mr. OK, participants engaged in the discussion on the cost of this CLOVA CareCall, the data privacy of the system, challenges faced, and modifications undertaken during the first roll-out period. Responds to the questions, as CLOVA CareCall is a government-funded project and the users do not incur out-of-pocket costs. However, the actual cost of each call is around one US dollar which is cost-effective than other preventive measures of solitary deaths. The CareCall is as simple as the normal phone call and few personal information such as name and phone number are needed. Older adults using analog mobile phones can use the service. As CareCall is a relatively small business within the company, one of the challenges has been the operational side of the business. Another has been personalized data for natural conversations, and modifications are being made to overcome these challenges. It also highlights the importance of governmental support and commitment to aging care, wide coverage of mobile networks, and an established mobile culture among older adults.

  • CLOVA CareCall generates natural conversation, enabling older adults to receive emotional care with the aid of Public-Private partnership

  • There is increasing use of CLOVA CareCall services in local municipalities, and public health centers in up to 120 cities, with good user satisfaction rates.

Digitally enhanced assisted living for older adults in Singapore

The second speaker, Ms. Karen Wee Siew Lin, executive director at the Lion Befrienders Service Association Singapore (LB)[3], highlighted LB’s dedication to the health and well-being of the silver population in Singapore. Throughout the years, LB kept up to date with the technological advancements and provided the optimal services to the beneficiaries they served. By 2030, LB expects to serve 26,000 older adults and helping them to age in place. In the 23rd DIHAC meeting, LB introduced a social care model integrated with digital technology. This model, based on the five domains of active ageing centers (physical, cognitive, social, volunteering, and learning), creates a digital ecosystem that allows older adults to use digital technology to age in place. Programs like “IM-OK”, developed during the pandemic, offer physical exercise videos, radio channels, entertainment, family calling, and a safety check button, all integrated into a tablet provided free of charge. Another innovation is IM-Healthy, an all-in-one device to measure the health parameters such as height, weight, blood pressure, BMI, heart rate, bone mass, muscle mass, and body fat. Each IM-Healthy device serves 2000 older population with minimal staff support, fostering social connections as older adults gather for measurement.

LB also utilizes artificial intelligence to detect and address emotional needs among older people, offering early insights into their mental and emotional well-being. Additionally, “AMR (Autonomous Motorized Robot)” are used for daily necessities logistics and checking on home-bound seniors without IM-OK tablets. Other innovations include a smart locker system (Our Treasure Box), fall detection system (Sound-eye), and simulation suite (I-Relate) for holistic support of older adults to age in place. Ms. Karen emphasized the indispensable role of digital technology in fostering holistic care for older adults, ensuring they age in place with dignity and security while continually adapting to their needs.
After the presentation of the 2nd speaker, discussion took place again and focused on the application of presented innovations for older adults with dementia and early stage of cognitive decline. In Singapore, the more human touch is integrated into the services for people with cognitive decline, and older adults remain active by joining Senior Active Centers (SAC) or interest groups whereas digital technology facilitates their healthy ageing. In Korea, several dementia centers are using the social care call to provide emotional support rather than detection or curative purposes.

  • Integration of several assisted living technologies under one roof of ecosystem allows accessibility and ease of use to the users and brings comprehensive insights for service provider.

  • The Social Care Model ensures health and social security of older adults featuring technological advancements and collaboration between NGOs and government.

In summary, by taking advantage of technological innovations, older people’s physical, mental, and social well-being could be enhanced, and functional capacity is maintained. More importantly, these technological developments could reduce the caregiver burden and mobilize scarce human resources for care to more human-touch needed areas. However, it is crucial to ensure that the autonomy and dignity of older adults are maintained and allow full social participation in the digitally inclusive community.

References
1. Decade of healthy ageing: baseline report. 2020, World Health Organization: Geneva.
2. NAVER CLOUD PLATFORM. NAVER CLOUD PLATFORM [cited 2024 1 July ]; Available from: https://www.ncloud.com/product/aiService/clovaCareCall.
3. Services – LB Tech Care | Lions Befrienders. [cited 2024 1 July]; Available from: https://www.lionsbefrienders.org.sg/lb-tech-care/.

Authors

Myat Yanada Kyaw, M.D., is Ph.D. student at the Department of Global Health Research, Graduate School of Medicine, Juntendo University, Tokyo, Japan.

Nadila Mulati, M.Sc, is Ph.D. student at the Department of Global Health Research, Graduate School of Medicine, Juntendo University, Tokyo, Japan

Thet Htoo Pan, M.D., is Ph.D. student at the Department of Global Health Research, Graduate School of Medicine, Juntendo University, Tokyo, Japan

Karen Wee Siew Lin, is Executive Director at Lions Befrienders Service Association, Singapore

Ok Sang-Houn, is Leader at AI SaaS business, NAVER Cloud Corp., ROK

Myo Nyein Aung, M.D., M.Sc., Ph.D., is Associate Professor at the Department of Global Health Research, Graduate School of Medicine, Juntendo University, Tokyo, Japan

Moon Jeong Choi, Ph.D.,FGSA, is Associate Professor and Head, Graduate School of Science and Technology Policy (STP), Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), Republic of Korea, United Nations ESCAP consultant