The impact of voice technology on loneliness and isolation

A group of our residents were involved in a trial to test the impact that voice technology can have on loneliness and social isolation. The results were incredible.

Can using voice technology help to alleviate loneliness in older people? Working closely with our digital partners Greenwood Campbell, a group of our residents took part in an innovative trial to test just that.

Together, Greenwood Campbell, Abbeyfield and the University of Reading wanted to see if introducing voice assistants into the daily lives of our residents would help to alleviate loneliness, with the conversations between a resident and a Google Home mimicking those of a conversation between two people.

Starting off with the basics, residents were introduced to their Google Home devices and taught how to activate it, how to adjust the volume, and different types of questions it can be asked; such as what the weather will be that day or what the latest news headlines are. 

Once the group of residents at Westbourne House were set up, they spent some time getting to know their voice-assistants and using them on a day-to-day basis. They were visited at least once a fortnight by a member of the Greenwood Campbell team, giving them a chance to ask any questions or raise any concerns they may have.

Learning how to use a voice assistant

It was definitely a learning curve for the residents involved, with Greenwood Campbell noting that common challenges arose during their different visits to the house. Residents were very polite when asking questions, and would include pleases, thank yous and far more information than would needed. After explaining that voice-assistants like short and concise questions, residents found the technology much easier to use.

Testing the impact of voice technology

To test the impact of the technology on the residents who took part in the trial, Greenwood Campbell recorded every conversation between the assistant and the resident to keep track of progress. They then compiled this data and went to the University of Reading to meet with Professor Arlene Astell, to curate an academic insight into this truly eye-opening project.

“Without the reinforcement of social interaction, people can experience depression and social isolation,” says Professor Astell. “Not getting out and doing things has physical and emotional consequences.”

“What I see so far from the research that we’ve done is really really exciting,” she goes onto say. “I think the potential for impact in people’s lives is only just starting to be explored.”  

Alleviating loneliness through the power of voice technology

The results from this project have been truly incredible, with every single one of the residents involved in the trial reporting that they feel less lonely since starting to use the technology.

It’s been truly heartwarming to see the hugely positive impact that voice has had on the lives of our residents, and we cannot wait to see where this project goes in the future.We’d like to say a huge thank you to the team at Greenwood Campbell for all of their hard work on this project and for putting together this moving video about our findings:

Join the discussion around this fantastic project using the hashtag #VoiceForLoneliness 

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