Watching Wilf tap his feet to Frank Sinatra’s ‘I’ve got you under my skin’ and listening to Sue happily singing ‘All things bright and beautiful’, it’s clear that the Amazon Echo Spot device in Trevern Nursing Home, Falmouth, is having an impact.
Nor is it just about music. When Trevern manager Haley Blake asks the virtual assistant to name famous cricketers, Wilf starts to reminisce about playing cricket – a sport he has loved since the age of six.
Trevern specialises in providing 24-hour nursing care for people with dementia and the device is part of an e-health research project being carried out by the University of Plymouth.
“The technology is amazing,” said Haley. “Our residents love hearing songs from their past and asking it questions on topics we think will be of interest often stimulates conversation and engagement. It’s wonderful to see an individual’s face light up when they remember a hobby or pastime they used to love and helps us, as carers, to get to know them better.
“We hold lots of activity sessions at Trevern but robotic technology means that we can instantly source music, information or even imaginary scenes they can relate to. Some of our residents are bed-bound, for example, but we can transport them emotionally to a beach with the sounds of waves lapping on the shore and people having fun in the water. It’s lovely to see the therapeutic effect an experience like that can have.”
Trevern is one of sixteen homes in the county that is run by Cornwall Care, a not-for-profit organisation that also looks after people in their own homes. Anne Thomas is the charity’s Chief Executive Officer.
“We’re delighted to work with the University of Plymouth in a research programme that is looking at how robotic technology can help transform the lives of the elderly and frail,” said Anne. “Cornwall Care is all about people looking after people but a gadget like this one can prove invaluable in that process.
“It’s enabled us to encourage Sue’s beautiful singing and to find out more about Wilf’s passion for cricket. Nothing can ever replace human contact, but technology is certainly playing an important part in improving lives and building relationships. It’s an exciting development and one which we are now working to implement across all of our homes.”