Resources and Advice

Helping you and your loved ones live well in later life

Falls Risk Score logo

Are you or a loved one at risk of a fall?

Every 10 seconds, a loved one in the UK has a fall. Find out your risk score in 2 minutes.

Whether it’s offending people when you ask how old they are or advertising that suggests that people of a certain age are “past it”, it’s no secret that modern society has its own unique challenges when it comes to perceptions of ageing.

Youth is often synonymous with beauty, whilst becoming old is something that must be cured – there's over 4 million results on Google for “anti-ageing products”.

This challenge around perceptions and stereotypes of ageing is particularly interesting as the use of AI continues to rise.

Whilst AI tools offer lots of benefits in terms of their speed at accessing and generating information, they also have one major flaw; they solely rely on information and content that is already available online.

So, what does this mean for subjects that are taboo or attitudes towards things that are common in popular culture, but need to be corrected? Does AI perpetuate and reinforce perceptions of things that society is trying to change?

We decided to find out.

Contact Taking Care about this report

How AI interprets ageing

Using AI image generator, MidJourney, we’ve explored how Artificial Intelligence interprets ageing in the modern day to understand whether AI tools perpetuate negative attitudes towards ageing – or help to cast a positive light on healthy ageing.

With the latest ONS figures
showing that more than 11m people are aged 65+, and with older people living longer in the UK, and ageing slower, society’s perceptions of ageing are vastly
different to those we may have had 20, 30 or even 50 years ago.  

Claire Baker, Elderly Care Expert at Taking Care

Exploring AI's understanding of ageing

As part of our advocacy for healthy ageing, we wanted to look at how AI understands the concept of ageing, exploring this through several lenses, including AI’s understanding of health conditions as well as its representation of ageing within popular culture.

It’s no secret that the UK’s ageing population is growing – over 65’s currently makes up almost 20% of the population, according to ONS data.

So if our older population is growing, why isn’t our perception of ageing?

Realistic representations of ageing are needed in mainstream media; and the images generated through Artificial Intelligence do little to reverse archaic stereotypes of how older people look.

Elderly lady against dark background

What does AI think an “old person” really looks like?

We asked MidJourney to generate an image of “a 85-year-old man” and “a 85-year-old woman” with the results showing stereotypical visual signs like deep wrinkles and greying hair reminiscent of later life.

AI generated images of elderly man and woman

When we asked the platform to show us what the same 85-year-old man and woman would look like 100 years from now, in the year 3023, the image showed few physical changes, despite the inevitable uplift in quality of life, care and technology we are seeing already start to evolve.

AI generated picture of elderly people in the future

The role of technology in elderly care is not to be overlooked as the future draws nearer. With Technology Enabled Care solutions such as personal fall alarms, AI monitoring devices and advancements in smart technology, more is being done to promote healthy ageing and help older people remain independent for longer.

The World Health Organization reports that the elderly are experiencing longer lifespans, with a projected one in six people worldwide aged 60 years or older by 2030.  

Recent studies also report an increased feasibility of individuals reaching the age of 120, largely due to the role of technology within eldercare, with a gov.uk report stating that people are generally living longer than ever before.

However, with AI’s ability to use existing online content to create new bespoke imagery, the evolution of ageing is yet to be brought to light within the mainstream. The reality is that older people are getting younger, thanks to increased access to healthcare and technologies that allow them to enjoy an improved quality of life.

It begs the question, does AI truly understand what “old” really looks like?

What is AI’s understanding of health conditions?

Dementia

According to the NHS, one in 11 people over the age of 65 have dementia in the UK, with more than 55 million people living with the condition worldwide; it is an condition that impacts millions of people every day.

We turned to MidJourney to explore AI’s perception of dementia, with some of the typical symptoms including:

  • Loss of memory
  • Lack of mental sharpness
  • Difficulty speaking and using words incorrectly
  • Change in mood
  • Difficulties doing usual daily activities
  • Reduced mobility and daily movement

Often, people living with dementia can have an unkempt appearance as they begin to struggle to care for themselves. A vacant expression betrays some of the cognitive difficulties they may be experiencing, and the physical appearance of ageing can often be accelerated.

AI generated images of dementia

When prompted to show an elderly person with dementia, AI generated a variety of images that could be interpreted differently, each one representing a health issue that dementia can cause:

Frailty

Frailty refers to a person’s mental health and lack of physical ability, particularly in relation to their ability to “bounce back” from accidents and injuries. Figures from Age UK show that 10% of people over 65 live with frailty, with the figure rising to between 25% and 50% for those aged 85 and over.

Frailty and becoming “frail” is a natural part of ageing that can often be misconstrued as a weakness among older people.

Through MidJourney’s perception of frailty, it shows an old, forlorn looking elderly who appears to be suffering. However, in modern day and with support from smart technologies and dedicated care plans, older people can do more to avoid frailty.

AI generated images of elderly fraility

Personal alarms play a significant role in supporting older people who may becoming frail, acting as an essential contingency plan for an elderly person who may need help in an emergency. For incidents such as fall, which impact around one in three over 65s and one in two over 80’s, a personal fall alarm could be crucial.

Episodic mobility

Episodic mobility refers to an older person’s ability to move around, with them often struggling to get around as they once did.

Nowadays, people experiencing issues with their mobility may use a walking aid such as a zimmer frame or walking stick or choose to use a wheelchair for longer journeys or days out.

However, when we consulted AI platform MidJourney to explore what a person with episodic mobility issues might look like, the image depicts an almost Dickensian figure shrouded in dark clothes with an old-fashioned walking stick.

93% of so-called “frail” individuals have mobility issues with the predominant form of disability among older people being mobility, according to a report by Age UK.

We have released a series of guides on how older people can support their physical wellbeing and mobility through eating well, moving more and investing in technology enabled care.

AI generated image of elderly person with mobility issues

Mobility is the most common issue impacting people aged 65+, and yet AI shares an unrealistic and ultimately old-fashioned perception of someone who simply can’t get around as they used to.

Claire Baker, Elderly Care Expert at Taking Care

Ageing through popular culture

We recently examined how Barbie would looked aged 83 (the doll’s true age), exploring some of the challenges she may have faced as she gets older. This inspired us to explore AI’s perception of elderly people throughout popular culture, exploring characters ranging from The Simpsons to Disney princesses.

With Disney having brought fairytale characters such as Snow White and Cinderella to life on the silver screen since 1938, all of us have grown up loving these characters, but some of them would be old ladies by now, with Snow White actually turning 100 this year.

We asked MidJourney to show us what Ariel, Princess Jasmin, Belle, Cinderella, Snow White and Rapunzel would look like as old women.

Cinderella and Snow White are shown here.

AI generated elderly Cinderella and Snow White

Representations of older people within popular culture typically show them as cranky and confused, with The Simpson’s cast of older characters bolstering these stereotypes through its depictions of Abe Simpson, Homer’s deranged elderly father, Mole Man, Agnes Skinner, and the insufferable, greedy, and insensitive Monty Burns, who is the oldest character on the show.

The Simpsons first hit our screens back in 1989, but these older characters have remained cranky and unapproachable, despite the many advancements in care and quality of life over the past 24 years.

We asked MidJourney to show us what these different Simpsons characters would look like in “real life” to explore how the platform interprets some of the stereotypes associated with them.

AI-generated The Simpsons character Agnes Skinner is shown here.

AI-generated Simpsons character

Claire Baker at TakingCare Personal Alarms, shares their views on the AI-generated imagery, saying:

“It’s great to use AI to imagine how things will look in the future, but within elderly care, the future is here now. Recent advancements in technology and care provision have meant that many older people are able to live better and more independently thanks to smart devices that make their life's easier and safer."

“From the images generated within this report, it is clear that the online resources used to generate AI imagery can be out-of-date and most of the time do not encompass the rapid and positive changes that have been made within elderly care."

“With the average UK life expectancy for a man sitting at 79 and 83 for women, older people are living longer and somewhat ageing slower."

“Through our work and with our range of resources and guidance, we want to encourage older people and their families to invest in Technology Enabled Care to support and enhance the ageing process, while also looking after their mental and physical wellbeing.”

AI generated Snow White in old age

TakingCare Personal Alarms helped over 200,000 people feel safer at home and out-and-about

Read Jacqueline's story
jacqueline with elderly parents

Please don’t worry, I’m okay now but I had a fall earlier today.

Despite telling me not to worry, I was understandably anxious when I received this message from my mother recently. My parents are more fortunate than many older adults who live alone. On the day my mother fell she knew my father would eventually find her. However, she fell over in the garden at the back of the house, my father was in the front of the house at the time and didn’t hear her calling for help.

Read Jacqueline's story

Read Dion's Story
Private pay telecare

Help was just the touch of a button away when Dion's mother had a fall, thanks to her pendant alarm.

Dion's Mum uses her personal alarm to live independently in her own home. Read how it helped her remain independent and get help when she fell.

Read Dion's Story

Read Alice's Story
Elderly personal alarm with landline

Alice's Gran was won over by the reassurance the monitored alarm service gives her and her family members.

Alice's Gran was sceptical about getting a falls alarm, until she needed to get help in an emergency. Now she loves her Taking Care Personal Alarm Service.

Read Alice's Story

Read Betty's story
Betty with a personal alarm

I'm 93 and don't have any family so my alarm gives me the confidence to carry on doing the things I enjoy.

Betty turned 93 years old this year, but her age doesn’t stop her from remaining active and living independently. However, she is very much aware of her age and care requirements, so her personal alarm is a source of reassurance. Betty recognises that it gives her security to remain active and independent.

Read Betty's story

What to know more?

If you would like to know more about this report or TakingCare Personal Alarms, please get in touch. We provide expert opinion and analysis of elder care in the UK and the challenges faced by older adults. You can also read the recent media coverage of TakingCare Personal Alarms.

Contact Taking Care

How TakingCare support independence in later life

As we get older, we should be able to continue doing the things we love and living life the way we want to. However, ageing can bring feelings of vulnerability and affect activity levels. Our personal alarms can restore confidence, and enhance independent and active living, with the reassurance that help is just a button press away if needed.

Personal alarms for the home and out-and-about

Have the freedom to maintain an active lifestyle, with reassurance help is available wherever you are. 

An Out-and-About Personal Alarm will also work in your home so you can get help from Taking Care's Emergency Resolution Team any time of the day or night.

Compare out-and-about alarms

Articles and guides from TakingCare

Read articles and guides with expert advice and tips encourage healthy ageing, covering topics such as health and fitness, finance, elderly care and home safety.

Elderly Barbie

AI images reimagine Barbie as an 83 year old woman

AI-generated images reveal what Barbie would really look like in real life, aged 83 and with dementia, episodic mobility and chronic foot pain from decades of over-wearing heels.

What would she really be like in real life?

Spotlight on Carers report

Our new report explores attitudes towards caring for elderly parents and the barriers that adults in the sandwich generation face to accessing care support for their frail relatives.

Unpaid and under pressure

Map showing best places to retire

Where are the best places in the UK for older people to live?

We’ve analysed the best towns and cities from across the UK based on some of the things that are most important to the older generation.

The best places to retire