Loneliness is an epidemic, and Cornwall Housing turn to technology to address it
Loneliness is a growing concern. Cornwall Housing’s Independent Living Service launched GenieConnect® on the 11th of November 2021 to help combat loneliness by delivering more and better quality-services to their customers.
Loneliness and social isolation are growing public health concerns, particularly within older adults. Whilst these experiences occur across the life span, 50% of people aged 60 and over are at risk of social isolation, and one-third will experience loneliness later in life.
Loneliness is a subjective negative feeling associated with a perceived lack of a wider social network (social loneliness) or the absence of a specific desired companion (emotional loneliness).
The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened loneliness and isolation for the most vulnerable in our communities and sharpened the focus on how we must use independent-living technology. Especially as we are living longer, and care workers are already stretched to provide quality care.
We aim to use Genie in many ways – connecting our customers to family and friends that may be far away and helping to improve and deliver better services within our Older Persons Schemes. Genie will allow residents to contact their Scheme Manager when they are not on-site – they will still be able to get face to face help and advice. Genie will be used in our extra care facility to assist the on-site care and support team – using the mood manager and the care portal, the team will assist clients even when close contact isn’t suitable such as a pandemic.
Cultivating a sense of belonging
Humans are social by nature, and high-quality social relationships can help us live longer healthier lives. However, many older adults are going weeks without social interactions due to families living further away and digital inequalities.
Assistive technology makes it easy to connect face-to-face when you’re physically separated. It can also be instrumental, as they transform how we interact with others, find information, access resources, and deliver services. It is crucial to leverage innovative technology-based interventions to improve the social connection for this population.
GenieConnect® enables more and better-quality services with the core objective to combat loneliness and reduce social care demands. On the 11th of November 2021, Cornwall Housing’s Independent Living Service are delivering robotic technology to their customers.
CEO of Service Robotics Ltd
“Finding proven methods of delivering some care remotely is game-changing for the care industry. By doing this we are enabling carers to do what they tell us they want; to deliver more care and better care”
GenieConnect® assists older adults at the greatest risk of loneliness with remote care services using a digital companion robot. Its supports social interactions with virtual video calling via the companion application, and connects to family members, carers, healthcare services and other Genie users.
I think Genie is well placed to resolve social isolation and loneliness in elderly and vulnerable people across the County. Many people live alone and can go for days at a time without seeing or speaking to anyone, and this can be for many reasons – e.g. distance, financial circumstances, mobility and physical disabilities and lots more.
Respecting older adults dignity
Keeping older adults home for longer reduces care demand, family worries and, importantly, respects their dignity. The people at risk of loneliness are also most likely to be digitally excluded, and vice versa. There are three elements to digital exclusion:
- lack of kit
- lack of skills and confidence in going online
- a lack of connectivity and data
Genie breaks down these barriers with a simple, easy-to-use system that can bring people together even in the most complicated and difficult circumstances.
By using assistive technology such as GenieConnect®, we are most excited about enabling all types of people to use the features of Genie and technology regardless of the stigma attached to this generation not wanting to use these methods.
The GenieConnect® ecosystem enables discrete care using Genie the robot for the older adult, the companion app for the family and care worker and the central care portal for the care manager. It has been designed with the older adult in mind, including customer care teams available for initial deployment of the technology and 2nd line support. To address loneliness, we must address digital inequality.
Social Care is an indispensable part of Cornwall and has been for a long time. Our dependence is growing, so we owe it to future selves to make it better.
Tackling loneliness is not the responsibility of one organisation, but rather a collective we all can play a part in to shape the future of care for many individuals at risk of experiencing loneliness.
I am excited to see Genie develop further and see what the future may hold for people in Cornwall – and looking forward to being a part of this development. Listening to the feedback from people using Genie and seeing their reactions when connecting with a long-lost family member is what makes it so worthwhile.