Connecting care homes and alleviating loneliness

Long-term care specialist for Ascom, Stephen Cavanagh, explores how artificial intelligence is helping care homes release more time and alleviate resident loneliness. 

September 8, 2023

It’s understood that between 22 and 42 per cent of people living in a care home feel ‘severe loneliness', compared to 10 per cent living in the wider community. (1). 

Over 80 per cent of older care home residents with mental health issues said they felt lonely in their care home and that this could be eased if staff were able to spend more time with them. With many residents viewing care home staff’s increasing workloads as a barrier to further social interaction. (2) 

Working closely with care homes I see daily the sterling effort made in connecting residents to enriching, social activities. The social lives of many residents would put most of us to shame in fact. 

But I also see that care home teams are being forced to deliver more with less. Less time and not enough staff and more residents with complex health and wellbeing needs. 

Not only can technology help to release more care team time so it can be spent with residents. It can also provide a vital lifeline for residents to alleviate loneliness themselves. 

Take for example intelligent assistants powered by artificial technology and voice recognition, commonly known as smart speakers. 

This technology has been commonplace in our homes for a while, helping us control our smart lights, reminding us that we have a dentist appointment and when we need to pick up a pint of milk. 

And it’s now becoming a prominent feature in care homes – with a few helpful, bespoke care home enhancements. 

Last year Majesticare became the first care home provider to adopt the new technology in the UK, with residents at its Cavendish Park care home having access to an Alexa device that intuitively feeds calls for assistant through to the right member of the team via smartphone alerts.

It helps our residents to live with more independence. It helps them communicate with each other, from Alexa to Alexa, but also with loved ones. What it means is carers have more quality time to spend with residents. To do the things they want to do. To have more fun.
Angela Boxall
CEO, Majesticare Luxury Care Homes

Residents can ask their virtual personal assistants for a wide range of support – from a call to the maintenance team to fix their TV and care assistance, to finding out about social events they can get involved in and talking to other residents remotely – smart speaker to smart speaker. 

Cavendish Park Care Home Resident, Sandy James, said: “It’s helped me change how I live here. I now know more about what’s going on and I can ask about the activities planned. It makes we feel more connected.” 

The technology works by alerting the right member of the team first time to the resident request. If a resident has a leaking shower, for example, the call ‘Alexa, my shower is leaking’ goes straight to a member of the maintenance team. It seems like a small thing, but it is making a big difference. 

“It really supports the team as well as the residents”, adds Angela. “Before for something like this a resident would press the nurse call buzzer. A carer would arrive and then go to hunt down the maintenance guy. It meant members of the team were getting involved in a task that they didn’t need to be and in a busy home that’s a lot of time being used and taken away carers being able to spend quality time with residents.”

And the technology isn’t just freeing up carer time and connecting residents to social activities. The technology itself is providing a companion.  

A study by Ofcom revealed that smart speaker owners consider their device as a companion especially if they live alone. With many believing it was good for combatting loneliness and liked the fact they could talk to their speakers. 

The research said a large number of people ‘anthropomorphise’ their smart speakers calling them ‘he’ or ‘she’. Many also say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to their device and ‘read intent’ in the way the speaker responds like they would during a human interaction. 

For disabled people especially the Ofcom study found that the smart speakers ‘had a significant impact on their lives’, allowing them ‘greater independence’ and improving their ‘conditions and abilities’.

“Residents have absolutely flown with the technology,” said Mel Hoskins, manager of Cavendish Park Care Home. “We have residents that are asking it for jokes, to share riddles, to arrange their social lives.”  

Findings published by the Campaign to End Loneliness highlighted the numerous studies that have shown a correlation between loneliness and deteriorating health. 

Loneliness is directly associated with an increased risk of conditions such as coronary heart disease, stroke, and depression.

In fact, social isolation is understood to be a comparable early death risk factor to smoking 15 cigarettes each day. Furthermore a ‘high degree’ of loneliness has also been found to double a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s. (3) 

While technology can never replace people, it can help power the human connection we all crave no matter how old we are. 


(1) Christina R Victor called ‘Loneliness in case homes: a neglected area of research?

(2) University of Bedfordshire. 

(3) Age UK. 


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