Reducing Loneliness and Improving Social Support among Older Adults through Different Modalities of Personal Voice Assistants

Valerie K. Jones, Changmin Yan, Marcia Y. Shade, Julie Blaskewicz Boron, Zhengxu Yan, Hyeon Jung Heselton, Kate Johnson, Victoria Dube

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study examines the potential of AI-powered personal voice assistants (PVAs) in reducing loneliness and increasing social support among older adults. With the aging population rapidly expanding, innovative solutions are essential. Prior research has indicated the effectiveness of various interactive communication technologies (ICTs) in mitigating loneliness, but studies focusing on PVAs, particularly considering their modality (audio vs. video), are limited. This research aims to fill this gap by evaluating how voice assistants, in both audio and video formats, influence perceived loneliness and social support. This study examined the impact of voice assistant technology (VAT) interventions, both audio-based (A-VAT) and video-based (V-VAT), on perceived loneliness and social support among 34 older adults living alone. Over three months, participants engaged with Amazon Alexa™ PVA through daily routines for at least 30 min. Using a hybrid natural language processing framework, interactions were analyzed. The results showed reductions in loneliness (Z = −2.99, p < 0.01; pre-study loneliness mean = 1.85, SD = 0.61; post-study loneliness mean = 1.65, SD = 0.57), increases in social support post intervention (Z = −2.23, p < 0.05; pre-study social support mean = 5.44, SD = 1.05; post-study loneliness mean = 5.65, SD = 1.20), and a correlation between increased social support and loneliness reduction when the two conditions are combined (ρ = −0.39, p < 0.05). In addition, V-VAT was more effective than A-VAT in reducing loneliness (U = 85.50, p < 0.05) and increasing social support (U = 95, p < 0.05). However, no significant correlation between changes in perceived social support and changes in perceived loneliness was observed in either intervention condition (V-VAT condition: ρ = −0.24, p = 0.37; A-VAT condition: ρ = −0.46, p = 0.06). This study’s findings could significantly contribute to developing targeted interventions for improving the well-being of aging adults, addressing a critical global issue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number22
JournalGeriatrics (Switzerland)
Volume9
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2024

Keywords

  • conversational agent
  • interactive communication technology
  • loneliness
  • multimedia learning modality
  • older adults
  • social support
  • voice assistant

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Aging
  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology

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