For the last two years, while seniors have been isolated with the aim of protecting them from the corona virus, a crisis of loneliness, has been building. While senior isolation was identified as a social issue before the pandemic, recent studies have identified over 50% of seniors report to feeling lonely.
The health effects of loneliness are nearly equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Loneliness has even been estimated to shorten a person’s life span by as much as 15 years. Loneliness may also increase the risks of serious health conditions such as dementia (by 50%), stroke (by 32%) heart disease (by 29%), mental health disorders (by 26%) and premature mortality (by 26%).
With loneliness amongst seniors at crisis levels researchers are constantly studying ways to help reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.One of these research studies is based in BC, Canada, and being led by Dr. Lillian Hung, RN, PhD, Assistant Professor of the UBC School of Nursing. This study focused on the role technology may play in reducing senior isolation and loneliness.
Dr. Hung and her research team distributed Tochtech’s Tochie, smart speaker devices, to seniors residing at Amica Seniors Residences in White Rock, and their families. Seniors and family members participating in the study were educated on how to use Tochie and were encouraged to use the device to communicate. Focused groups and interviews were then conducted to solicit their feedback on their experience using Tochie. Researchers were surprised and encouraged that family members viewed Tochie not just as an enabler for remote care for task and medication reminders, but more so as a means of providing enhanced emotional support for and connection with their loved ones. “Through this study we have found that families used Tochie in creative, personalized ways, from sending reminders to recording special messages and music for their loved ones. It is exciting to see how technologies like Tochie have the capacity to provide not just remote care but also the emotional connection aspect which is vital for our seniors” said Dr. Hung.