Accenture Is Using AI to Combat Elder Loneliness and Preserve Generations of Memories

Using reverse-engineered voice assistants

The goal of "Memory Lane" is to help preserve cherished family memories for generations to come. Accenture
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Accenture Interactive found an innovative way to combat elder loneliness for energy provider Stockholm Exergi and make the Swedish city a more hospitable place by reverse engineering voice assistants to give elderly residents someone to talk to while also documenting their stories.

Some 250,000 people live alone in Stockholm, making it one of the world’s loneliest cities according to a Stockholm City Council report. Unwanted loneliness in the elderly is associated with an increased risk of depression, early-stage dementia and suicide, and having someone to talk to regularly is associated with improved health and well-being.

“We wanted to create something based on both brand truth and genuine human insights, to contribute to society in a new, meaningful way” that was both “scalable” and “long-term,” Accenture Interactive Nordics CCO Adam Kerj explained.

In addition to the benefits of combatting loneliness, the campaign titled, “Memory Lane,” also serves to document the stories shared with the reverse-engineered voice assistants, preserving oral histories for future generations.

“Most of us have a family member that we’ve met briefly or heard about but never actually got the chance to talk or listen to. And now that they’re gone, their stories will fade away as well,” Kerj said. “There are hundreds of thousands of amazing stories that will never be told or shared with the next generation.”

“Memory Lane” resulted in an ongoing monthly podcast as well as a book shared with participants that include their own stories.

The concept for “Memory Lane” emerged after Stockholm Exergi challenged Accenture with creating “an idea that competes not with other companies but with something that people would want to give their time to talk about and share with their employees, consumers, partners and society. Something they can be proud of,” Kerj said.

The project is around two years in the making and began with three months of developing the creative concept.

“As we engaged with elderly people we also brought them on board early on to fully be part of the project and make it a great experience for them, all the way to how we safely secure the data captured in the project by keeping everything on locally stored, encrypted servers and not in the cloud,” Kerj said.

Developing the project, Accenture found that the approach led to participants revealing stories they’d never shared before.

“By inverting the native capabilities of smart speakers, in the world’s first reverse-engineered voice assistant, AI can drive a meaningful conversation and ask deeply personal follow-up questions and contextually make it a personal experience,” Kerj said. “As we created project ‘Memory Lane,’ we realized that by creating a hybrid human-artificial experience, it instantly sparked genuine conversations that led [our participants to reveal] stories that they never before had told anyone.”

That the conversations occurred in participants’ own homes, meanwhile, created “an intimate, safe environment” where they were “in control” and could share their stories “on their own terms.”

As “Memory Lane” continues, Accenture plans to launch a road show in which they travel to nursing homes across the country and create pop-up installations in other cities in Sweden to allow more people to participate.

@ErikDOster Erik Oster is an agencies reporter for Adweek.