Intelligent robot companion helps to reduce loneliness in older people
One in three people aged over 64 in the UK live alone, some struggling to find the support to live independently. Having seen first-hand how quickly a full and happy life can become lonely after their parents lost their respective partners, Bristol-based entrepreneurs Rob Parkes and Tim Morgan decided to use their innovation, skills and experience to create a solution – which is where Genie Connect began.
Genie Connect is a companion robot service which uses a friendly, intuitive voice-enabled robot to offer connectivity and support to older adults in the UK. The robot can help to reduce loneliness, increase independence and help older people live in their own homes for longer. We spoke to Rob about the inspiration behind Genie Connect and how it works to help older adults.
Keeping older people connected
The Genie Connect system is completely voice-activated, making the robot easy to use and intuitive for an older audience and those who might not be comfortable using technology, becoming a hub for accessing general information, resources, entertainment such as radio/TV, and connecting with family and friends.
Those using the Genie Connect system have 24/7 access to a Care Centre, which will be able to provide assistance and guidance whenever it is needed. If there is any cause for concern, authorised loved ones are able to remotely move the head of the robot to look around the user’s room from a companion app on their smartphone.
“Genie is integrated with our partner solution RemindMecare, allowing us to learn the user’s likes and dislikes, and provide stimulating content that’s relevant to them,” says Rob.
“Crucially, this software uses reminiscence, memory stimulation and music therapy to keep their mind active and engaged and therefore promote cognitive retention.”
The robot can also connect them by video to other users with similar interests – from crosswords and quiz shows to yoga and knitting. It also reminds them to take medication on time, and to attend medical appointments.
“There are so many amazing new solutions that use technology to solve older adult challenges, but unfortunately most of them require the ability to use a smartphone at the very least – which is not something we found to be realistic with this demographic during our focus group work. Instead, we’ve focused on creating a humanoid companion which is totally voice-enabled to overcome this barrier.”
“Our vision for Genie Connect is to turn the home into a cocoon of safety, security and human companionship – we first wanted to start to tackle loneliness, but we are now moving into helping individuals to manage their health and wellbeing from the home,” says Rob.
“Our roadmap shows some hugely exciting capabilities including next-generation sensors to monitor health remotely and non-invasively and to use that information to predict conditions before they even develop.”
Being an AXA Health Tech & You Awards finalist
When asked how they felt to be chosen as a finalist of the AXA Health Tech & You Innovation in Health Tech category, Rob said: “This Awards programme represents a huge opportunity to all parties. Over the coming years, the use of technology to improve the healthy independence of older adults is going to be a critical factor in adapting our health and care systems for an ageing population. As an AXA Health Tech & You finalist, we are proud to be part of that movement.”
The Innovation in Health Tech category looked to identify this technology in its early stage, continuing to help people improve the health of themselves and their family.
 Dreyer, K., Steventon, A., Fisher, R. and Deeny, S. (2019). The association between living alone and health care utilisation in older adults: a retrospective cohort study of electronic health records from a London general practice.