Video app helps reduce isolation in home care pilot

The Uniting AgeWell Dossy pilot found increased social and family connections and reduced feelings of loneliness among participants.

The evaluation of the Uniting AgeWell Dossy pilot of a simple video app designed for older people shows increased social and family connections and reduced feelings of loneliness among participants.

The findings come as the second pilot of the research project – this time involving volunteers – gets underway.

The tech start-up Dossy is aiming to tackle social isolation and loneliness among older people by helping them to connect with loved ones and volunteers through a simple video app that provides details on contact availability in real-time.

Together with project partners Victorian home care provider Uniting AgeWell and researchers at University of Melbourne, Dossy piloted the video-calling technology from July to December 2022 with 12 isolated older adults.

Kristen Graham

The pilot study – which reported its findings earlier this month – aimed to understand the value of Dossy for improving lives, the technology challenges users encountered and any areas for improvement.

It found that Dossy helped participants increase social connectedness through regular video calls with family members and close friends, Dossy founder Kristen Graham told Community Care Review on the sidelines of the Aged Care Research and Industry Innovation Australia conference earlier this month.

“We also enabled new family connections to people they’d never met before,” Ms Graham said. “And we found increased family involvement. So that included participants being invited out to family lunches and events, and because of the connection, started through Dossy, it then became more regular in person. And then we found an overwhelming reduction of loneliness and feelings associated with social isolation.”

Above and top: A Dossy user

The findings were positive on the tech side too. Participants found Dossy easy to use because of its simplified interface design.

They also found it “easy to make calls and be empowered to call at the right time because of that real-time availability of family members,” Ms Graham said.

Participants also didn’t worry about getting any scam calls because they knew exactly who was calling, she added.

Among the happy participants is Leonard, who said Dossy gave him a lot of company because his daughter called every night. “I‘m so pleased because with Dossy I can see that they’re all happy and that‘s the main thing. Being happy. I laugh a lot more, and the best medicine you can have, believe it or not, is a good laugh,” he said in document higlighting the study’s findings.

Fellow participant Judy said it helped her stay connected to family overseas.  “I’m having fun and I’m really enjoying being able to be in contact with loved ones overseas. That is just so good. I’ve got a son and daughter-in-law and four grandchildren in Dublin, in Ireland. And I can talk to them more often and see them,” she said in the document.

Second pilot involving volunteers underway

The next phase of the pilot is called Community Connect and involves connecting isolated older adults with digital volunteers. The project partners Dossy, Uniting AgeWell, University of Melbourne and digital product studio Two Bulls received an ARIIA grant in January to undertake this phase of the project.

Screen shot of Dossy showing family and volunteer availablity

Community Connect aims to increase the social connections of older people who do not have family or close friends to connect to, or to just empower older people to make a call at any time they want, rather than when their family members are available, Ms Graham said.

The three-month Community Connect pilot is kicking off in June with 30 participants in different regions of Victoria, she said.

“It’s all about increasing the social connections and building community companions,” Ms Graham told CCR. The technology means volunteers do not need to be face to face or mobile to volunteer.

“Volunteers can come from all walks of life and we’ve got a group of them. [Digital volunteers] can set their hours, which might be half an hour at a time of day where they’ve got a break during work hours or it could be on the weekend.”

Results of the Community Connect pilot are expected to be available in November.

Watch this video to find out more about the project:

Main image: A screen shot from the Dossy app

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