Smart digital devices can reduce the loneliness of older people and increase their social participation. That is the result of the model project “Digital Neighbors” in Zweibrücken. The Rhineland-Palatinate Development Agency and the German Red Cross Rhineland-Palatinate launched it together with the Fraunhofer Institute for Experimental Software Engineering IESE.
“The conversation with the device made the feeling of loneliness less,” explained Simon Scherr, project manager at Fraunhofer IESE in Kaiserslautern of the German press agency. Scherr conducted regular interviews with the ten participants and evaluated the results.
“The participants made new friendships and exchanged ideas with one another via video telephony.” Although the senior citizens knew that it was only a matter of a machine with a display that could speak, the voice assistant for a large mail order company had become part of their lives.
Project helps seniors through Corona time
That “Digital Neighbors” project According to Scherr, it began in late autumn 2018. The devices and the associated technology were provided by the development agency. The investigation was able to continue even after the start of the corona pandemic. “This made our question even more topical,” explained Scherr. It was one of the few projects with older people that could be evaluated despite the corona pandemic, “precisely because it was possible to keep in touch via video”.
Many of the participants between the ages of 68 and 83 were concerned about the situation, but at the same time always emphasized that the device enabled them to maintain better contact with their social environment than other people from their age group.