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Older people can more easily connect with their families

Older people struggle with technology for different reasons. They may be unable to use a tablet or a phone – perhaps because it’s too different to what they’re used to, but it also may be because they cannot see the screen properly, or it isn’t responsive to their fingers due to poor circulation.

No Isolation built a computer called KOMP that has just one button. Even people with dementia should be able to recognise a big button easily, Dolva said, so older people can push it on and off and be connected to the rest of the family in an instant.

“All of a sudden we’ve made them online,” she said. “We try and bring them into the same platform as everyone else, without changing the habits of the younger generations.”

The burden of loneliness is incredibly high. Studies have shown how the stress of being lonely has a bad impact on your heart, and it can affect your brain and body in many harmful ways.

Finding the ‘price tag’ of loneliness

This isn’t just bad for the people who are lonely, but for society too. That’s why Dolva says she wants to find the “pricetag of loneliness” to really push them forwards.

That means calculating the cost of what happens if a child gets diagnosed with cancer at eight, then isn’t able to go to school for two or three years.

“What’s the likelihood of dropping out of school, and what’s the likelihood of getting a job if you drop out of school?” Dolva said. “Same with the seniors. If we manage to increase [their] quality of life, and enable them to stay at home for a week, two weeks, maybe a couple of months longer, what does that mean for the government in numbers?

“I want those numbers because that’s the only way we can keep really pushing the market in front of us.”

The causes of loneliness are hard to measure, because there are so many different factors for different age groups. Older people are isolated from their family and have lost many of their friends. Younger people, like millennials, may be more affected by looking on social media.

Whatever it is, Dolva said the research shows a connection between loneliness and our expectations compared to reality.

“For example, you would feel more lonely if you were alone on a Saturday than on a Tuesday night,” she said. “Because your expectation level is much higher on a Saturday. And this might be something that social media has increased… We continuously see other people doing a lot of things, so we feel like everyone is doing something all the time, and we should too.”

Kids playing football, while their friend watches with an AV1.

Kids playing football, while their friend watches with an AV1.
No Isolation

But blaming technology for our problems isn’t the answer, she said. Instead, it’s about looking at where it falls short and demanding for it to be better.

“You could start to question whether or not social media is social at all,” Dolva said. “If you drill down and see what social media was meant to do, and what is at the core business there, it has nothing to do with long conversations or close relations… social networks have not been made to increase the value of the friends that you have.”

Ultimately it doesn’t matter if you have two, 20, or 100 friends. Your social satisfaction depends on how close you are to the ones you have, and to what extent you meet your expectation levels. If you’re happy with the amount of time you spend with your two close friends, then you won’t feel lonely.

“It’s the second you start thinking I want more, I wish I could do this tonight, but I don’t have anyone to talk to about that – that’s when we start experiencing that we’re lonely,” Dolva said.

A lot more people need help

Four months after starting up, No Isolation rolled out 20 prototypes of the AV1 robot, and immediately the team were receiving emails from moms and dads. The same happened with the KOMP screen for older people. People were getting in touch saying how wonderful it was that they could now be connected to their grandparents in such an easy way.

“We’ve been saying amongst ourselves as long as we help one more kid we will succeed,” said Dolva. “If we can do that by bringing one more unit out then that’s a success.”

Somewhere between 20 and 40% of the population experience loneliness, so there’s more than enough people to take them.

“I think we have our hands full if we want to help them all,” Dolva said. “But that would be the end goal… That people aren’t suffering from loneliness anymore.”

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