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09 July 2021 by Guest Author: Keith Tully of Real Business Rescue

Filling the loneliness void with voice activated assistants

Filling the loneliness void with voice activated assistants

When interacting with colleagues in the corporate world, making verbal contributions through constructive conversations and routine pleasantries are a commonplace of such working environments. Returning home to your family or friends multiplies your opportunities to make conversation, an action which is often taken for granted as it is naturally occurring, however, essential to maintain healthy relationships.

Taking a detailed look at groups in society detached from their loved ones, loneliness is the greatest hurdle faced by isolated individuals. Loneliness can take many forms, from rooting in one’s mind to a reflection of physical separation. The triggers of loneliness differ for each person; however, remedies can be universally applied by incorporating intelligent technology to fill the void.

The underrated power of speech

A study conducted by Age UK and Cadbury Dairy Milk found that nearly 2.6 million people in the age bracket of 65 and over go a week speaking to just three or fewer people. Over 225,000 typically spend a week without speaking to anyone at all, deteriorating the value of the lives of the most vulnerable in our society. Over half a million of the respondents claimed this stopped them from interacting in daily life, and nearly 4.5 million claimed it made them feel lonely in later life.

The study found that the power of speech instantly elevated the lives of the older generation by conducting the following actions:

  • Knowing your neighbours
  • Smiling or saying hello at a bus stop or queue
  • Stopping to say hello to your neighbour
  • Asking about how their day has gone

An unprecedented challenge experienced by the older generation during the coronavirus pandemic was social distancing and shielding. Since social distancing measures were introduced in March 2020, the ageing population were instructed to take a step back and close their doors to individuals outside their bubble. This not only compounded their sense of loneliness but contributed to the deterioration of their mental health. Clinically high-risk groups were plunged into loneliness, which also consisted of young adults.

To minimise the long-term repercussions of Covid-19 triggered loneliness, technology was multi-purposed to bridge the link between individuals confined to their homes. Introducing the beginning of a digital-first era, new movie releases were unveiled on digital streaming services, leading to the formation of online viewing parties. Businesses fast-tracked technological advances to allow for remote working and the way we socialise transformed overnight. Technology made it possible to replace physical interaction with online interaction, nourishing social activity with responsive social channels.

Using technology for good – lending a hand from virtual assistants

Taking note of the power of technology, the Greenwood Campbell team recognised a serious void in the lives of care home occupants when working on a web project with housing charity, Abbeyfield. The team deployed voice-activated assistants to elderly residents at Abbeyfield’s supported housing facility in Bournemouth in a bid to reduce loneliness. The tech agency worked with the University of Reading to generate academic insight to support the link between voice-activated assistants and reducing loneliness.

Uncertain as to whether the residents would be open to the idea of trialling the technology, the pilot went successfully, reaffirming their stance that technology could play a significant role in the lives of the care home occupants.

Trials conducted by the Adult Social Care units at Hampshire County Council and Oxfordshire County Council also witnessed the potential of voice assistants and how they can reshape the delivery of social services.

Understanding the power of speech and how voice-activated assistants can encourage verbal interactions can support people struggling from loneliness for the short and long term. As the coronavirus pandemic creates a digital tipping point for commercial businesses stuck offline, it paves a host of new opportunities in the social world.

This guest post is written by Keith Tully of Real Business Rescue, the UK’s leading company restructuring and liquidation services provider for distressed company directors. Keith specialises in supporting businesses hit by winding up petitions and Covid-19 financial pressures.
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