Assistive Artificial Intelligence Technologies for Dementia and Age-Related Cognitive Decline

The aging of the European population and the consequent increasing incidence of dementia and age-related cognitive decline pose a major problem for the health-care services in terms of financial management, caregiving burden and rise significant societal and ethical implications.  The proportion of the total European population older than 65 is set to increase from 16.1 % in 2000 to 27.5 % by 2050, while the proportion of the population aged over 80 years (3.6 % in 2000) is expected to reach 10 % by 2050. With population over 65 being >17% of the total population, Switzerland, Germany and Italy are on the front line to face the high costs of long-term care and institutionalization for dementia patients (6 900 000 000 CHF per  year only in Switzerland) and the resulting burden on the health-care system as well as on non-professional caregivers. A promising approach to this emergent crisis is the massive development and deployment of intelligent assistive technologies (e.g. environmental sensors, biosensors, cognitive orthoctics, and advanced integrated systems) that compensate for the physical and sensory deficits that may accompany elders with dementia and age-related cognitive decline and support them in the completion of  Activities of Daily Living  (ADL), in a manner that enables them to stay longer, safely and more independently in the domestic environment. In fact, technologies that can help cognitively impaired elders live at home longer or to maintain more independence in assisted living facilities would provide a “triple-win” effect, improving quality of life of patients, reducing the burden on caregivers and the health-care system and potentially saving significant amounts of money.

While rapid advancements in artificial intelligence, pervasive and ubiquitous computing (PUC) and other advanced trends in software and hardware technology have already led to the commercialization of a number of assistive technologies (ATs) for dementia home-care, little information has been collected so far on the views and attitudes towards these technologies of all major stakeholders, namely patients, family members and professional caregivers.

Aim of this study is threefold: (I) to produce an up-to-date index of intelligent ATs developed for the purposes of dementia home-care; (II) to collect extensive transnational information across Switzerland, Germany and Italy regarding the impact of indexed ATs on the quality of life of users; and (III) to investigate the views, needs and attitudes towards ATs of dementia and cognitive decline patients as well as their professional and non-professional caregivers with particular attention on ethically relevant features including privacy, personhood, autonomy, and safety.

The knowledge produced by this study is expected to benefit several professional categories involved in the public and private management of dementia including p a t i e n t s , technology designers and developers, health-care institutions and policy-makers; and to promote a participative model of technology assessment for intelligent ATs. 

Project start:


PhD-Committee of Marcello Ienca

Prof. Dr Bernice Simone Elger, (Faculty representative), Head of the Institute for Bio- and Medical Ethics, University of Basel

Prof. Gabriela Stoppe, (first supervisor) Titularprofessor for Psychiatry, University of Basel; Head at MentAge

Prof. Fabrice Jotterand, (second supervisor) Senior researcher at the Insitute for Bio- and Medical Ethics, University of Basel; Associate Professor, Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities, Medical College of Wisconsin

Prof. Pascal Borry, (external expert), Assistant Professor at the Centre for Biomedical Ethics and Law (K.U.Leuven); Affiliated researcher at the V.U. Amsterdam