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UFV Receives $225K from TD Bank Group On AI Program to Reduce Pandemic Social Isolation and Loneliness in Youth and Older Adults

Fraser Valley – The Community Health and Social Innovation (CHASI) Hub at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) has received $225,000 over three years from the TD Bank Group to use artificial intelligence and social companion robots to reduce social isolation and loneliness in youth and older adults during the pandemic.

The TD Ready Commitment funding will support research augmented by artificial intelligence and machine learning to examine the impact of the pandemic on two populations that have been disproportionately impacted — youth and older adults.

Along with other research methods, smart algorithms will be developed to detect audio-visual cues, recognize emotions, and respond to symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as teach new coping strategies. The project team will assess the success of these methods in helping offset social isolation and loneliness.

“We are excited to partner with TD on this project to examine the effectiveness of various interventions in helping these two population groups that have been deeply affected by the pandemic,” noted Dr. Martha Dow, Director of CHASI. “These findings will be shared with government, industry, and community partners to enhance social and emotional wellness in our community.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified loneliness as a significant predictor of depression and anxiety in both older and younger adults. However, the rates of social isolation and loneliness are significantly higher amongst older adults compared to all other age groups, with around 40% of all older adults reporting feelings of loneliness.

“For people in communities everywhere, the pandemic has underscored the critical importance of maintaining good mental health, especially during periods of social isolation and loneliness,” said Andy Cribb, Senior Vice President, Branch Banking, TD Pacific Region. “TD is proud to partner with UFV and CHASI as researchers seek to address this significant challenge so that they can help people and communities stay resilient for years to come.”

While youth aged 15-24 are more likely than the general population to report worsening mental health due to COVID-19, the most dramatic impact of the pandemic has been felt by older adults, their families, and caregivers.

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