Artificial Intelligence pairs caregiver students with elderly patients

Anyone who has sought out caregiving help for an older adult knows it can be expensive, time-consuming and difficult to find the right fit. 

Now, artificial intelligence is stepping in to create art and experiences that use the help of healthcare students to get the hours they need in patient care. 

89-year-old Mary Peruzzo of Redwood City is not as spry as she once was, but wants to live independently and intends to stay in her home on the Peninsula as long as she can. 

She uses a walker due to her mobility issues. She admits she is forgetful. But she thrives on her independence and recognizes her need for support. 

Peruzzo's family is honoring her wishes to live at home, even though she has memory issues. 

Sofia Pozzo is a student, also living in Redwood City, training in healthcare. 

She’s registered with CareYaYa to earn money and obtain clinical practice hours she needs as a healthcare student. 

"It’s really wonderful," she said, "as a lot of times I think our elders have been left behind by this tech phase."

The free online marketplace matches healthcare students who need to gain clinical hours with patients in need of caregiving and companionship. The students get paid to assist patients with accessing artificial intelligence that can be helpful, especially to those with memory impairments. 

Peruzzo is a ‘golden intern’ for the company that developed the online marketplace, and one of the first people in the Bay Area to use this artificial intelligence technology. 

The application uses any tablet or touchscreen, using tactile motions which are then turned into images that allow for visual discovery, memory prompts and creative expression. 

Peruzzo fondly recalled her two dogs, Tiffany and Tara, who died years ago. 

"Golden Retrievers, the loves of my life," she said. 

Using the artificial intelligence application, Pozzo helped the senior type out ‘dog’ in the prompt window. 

A color palette in the left window of the application allowed her to select the color of the dogs’ fur. In a window on the right of the device, an image of a Golden retriever appears. 

"Wow!" she said, impressed that the tablet was able to display an image of a dog who looked just like hers. 

Anytime, anywhere. Only with FOX LOCAL — download today and install using Roku, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, Google Android TV, and Vizio televisions. You can also stream KTVU on Samsung TV sets.

Pozzo shared her enthusiasm for the way her patient responded to the experience. 

"It’s really amazing," Pozzo said. "I think we’re able to connect to some things in her past, and bring up some really fond memories which can be helpful, especially with some dementia patients who can reconnect with some of the experiences that maybe they’ve forgotten."

The application is designed to guide the patient through simple toolbars that are intuitive. Patients with limited mobility on the screen can produce colors and images. 

Pozzo is impressed with the feedback her patient provides during the sessions they’re together. 

Even short finger strokes on the touchpad return detailed image results. 

"It’s really great," Pozzo said, "because it’s using a part of her brain that she may not be able to draw forward in other areas of life."

Alice Wertz is a freelance reporter with KTVU Fox 2 News. She can be reached at