Artificial Intelligence Digital Policy Resilience & Society Technology & Innovation
Report May 29, 2024

Generational AI: Digital inclusion for aging populations

By Caroline Thompson

As artificial intelligence (AI) applications become ubiquitous in products and services, it is more important than ever to ensure that they are appropriately aligned for positive use and avoid exacerbating social exclusions for an aging population. Based on discussions with leaders in equity, AI, and aging, and additional research, Generational AI: Digital inclusion for aging populations outlines the unique considerations for older adults within the AI lifecycle, barriers to digital inclusion that older adults experience regarding AI and suggested near- and long-term solutions to advance digital inclusion and mitigate biases against older adults, while supporting practical AI innovation, AI policy, and healthy aging.

Age and its intersection with other dimensions of access—including income, race, language, and gender—dramatically influence an individual’s ability to fully access, benefit from, and contribute to the digital world. With current trends, the population of adults aged sixty and older is expected to surpass 1.4 billion by 2030. Guidance and policies that include and engage older adults in AI development and deployment can foster broader inclusion, as the demographic cuts across various protected statuses and minority identities. Empowering the inclusion of older adults supports them in acting as agents of enhancing more comprehensive inclusion across AI. This change is necessary to ensure responsible and equitable AI for all, especially as the global population rapidly ages.

Digital inclusion for aging populations is possible, with various solutions across the AI lifecycle. Generational AI: Digital inclusion for aging populations identifies the varied use cases of artificial intelligence and older adults, breaking down the main considerations within the design, development, and deployment of AI to support healthy aging and advance equitable AI. These considerations reveal four significant barriers to the digital inclusion of older adults in AI, including:

  • incomplete or biased data on older adults;
  • lack of inclusion of older adults in AI design, development, and post-deployment feedback;
  • limited digital literacy and algorithmic awareness of older adults; and
  • adaptive monitoring and evaluation.

To address each gap, priorities suggested for the multistakeholder field of AI development, deployment, and governance are:

  • forging data-inclusion and transparency standards;
  • empowering user education and literacy for older adults, while ensuring proportional and appropriate modes of consent; and
  • establishing a standard of care through monitoring, evaluation, and impact assessments.

Interoperability, connectivity, literacy, transparency, and inclusion emerge as key themes to help identify the existing gaps within the intersection of AI and aging. These themes are visible across recent policy efforts, and can be made even more impactful by recognizing their intersection with specific communities, like older adults. The recent developments in guidelines, frameworks, and agreements signify a positive shift toward enabling digital inclusion for older populations. These developments are crucial to safeguard against biases inherent in AI-enabled technologies, biases that can significantly impact older adults throughout the various stages of the AI lifecycle. The path forward demands not just the inclusion of older adults in AI, but also their empowerment. As AI products and services become intertwined with daily life, advocating for the rights and needs of the aging population becomes more critical. This approach will pave the way for an equitable landscape where older citizens are not merely passive recipients, but active contributors and beneficiaries of the AI revolution.

About the author

Related content

The GeoTech Center champions positive paths forward that societies can pursue to ensure new technologies and data empower people, prosperity, and peace.

This report and event have been made possible through the generous support of AARP. All views expressed in the report and event may not necessarily reflect the views of AARP. Throughout this process, the author engaged in confidential consultations with many well-known private and public organizations. These discussions were instrumental in shaping the contents of this report. Consequently, to maintain confidentiality, specific affiliations are not disclosed in the report or event.

Image: 3D render of a data technology background with flowing particles