Introduction: Social isolation is a major public health concern, as isolated individuals are at increased risk of poor overall health, as well as at increased risk of unhealthy behaviors. During the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing strategies have led to increased rates of loneliness and social isolation. There is a clear need for strategies to mitigate the effects of social isolation and loneliness on the mental and physical health of older adults. In this study, we sought to better understand how voice-controlled intelligent personal assistants (VIPAs) could be leveraged to reduce loneliness and social isolation among home-bound older adults. Methods: Patients and geriatric experts were recruited to use VIPA devices (Google Home) in their homes for 4 weeks and then provide feedback. No prior training was provided. Geriatric experts were recruited via email solicitation from the Northwestern Medicine Geriatrics Clinic, and patients were solicited directly from geriatric primary care physicians. The investigators used qualitative analysis to identify codes and overarching themes. Results: A total of 288 comments were received from 16 participants. Eight major themes were identified: Administrative, Companionship, Home Control, Education, Emergencies, Entertainment, Health and Well-Being, and Reminders. Discussion: Results demonstrate that VIPAs can be useful across multiple domains and potentially play a role in providing physical, social, and cognitive stimulation to home-bound older adults. VIPAs have a wide range of functionality, many of which could be implemented to focus on common geriatric syndromes and may ultimately be a tool to help mitigate social isolation and the consequential loneliness.
- social isolation