Voice Assistants Reduce Loneliness in Older People: Study
Voice assistants can help older people feel less lonely according to a recent case study in the United Kingdom. Abbeyfield, a non-profit providing home and care for the elderly in the UK, worked with digital agency Greenwood Campbell and the University of Reading to perform the Voice for Loneliness trial, which could lead to a broader impact on the quality of life of older people who lack social interaction opportunities.
Five residents at Westbourne House, one of the Abbeyfield care facilities were provided with Google Home smart speakers. Greenwood Campbell taught the residents how to use the devices and interact with the Google Assistant, then followed-up several times to learn about how having the voice assistant was affecting their mood and well-being. Every conversation between the voice assistant and the users was recorded. The University of Reading then took this organized data for analysis.
Social isolation is linked to depression and poor mental and physical health at all ages. It can be particularly problematic for older people who do not go out very often due to health or other constraints. But, while speaking with Google Assistant is not the same as a conversation with a human being, it did improve the mood and emotional health of everyone involved in the trial.
“What I see so far from the research that we’ve done is really really exciting,” Professor Arlene Astell of the University of Reading, who worked with the data, told Abbeyfield in their blog on the study. “I think the potential for impact in people’s lives is only just starting to be explored.”
Elder Care With Voice Assistance
Using voice assistants to improve the lives of older people is becoming more popular. Companies and organizations are starting to see the potential as an aide for families and care professionals of older people. Insurance giant State Farm launched a new Amazon Alexa skill to help with senior care, using the voice assistant to connect caregivers with older people who live alone, for example.
Other companies are creating new hardware to go with the voice assistant to add to care options. LifePod created a proactive virtual caregiver in a proprietary smart display. Designed to improve the care and support of aging or socially isolated people, LifePod recently partnered with the Massachusetts-based Commonwealth Care Alliance to bring its device to more than 500 CCA members. Then there’s Pria, the voice-activated robotic companion created by Pillo Health and Stanley Black & Decker. Pria helps those with chronic conditions maintain their medication schedule and health, combining a built-in voice assistant with a pill dispenser. Both devices encourage conversation and can perform many of the functions of commercial voice assistants.
To find out more about how using a voice assistant boosted the moods of the users in the UK study, check out the full video about their study.