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Broaching loneliness and isolation

TECHNOLOGY

In an effort to combat the growing problem of social isolation among older people, the world's first wearable tech to detect loneliness has been developed in Australia. Worn as a brooch (pictured above), the CaT Pin monitors how much older people have been talking and sends text alerts to family or carers if it shows they have been without human contact for some time. With the Australian population getting older and living longer, innovative solutions such as the CaT Pin are increasingly needed.


Conceived at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), the goal of the device, said deputy director Matiu Bush, “was to address social isolation in older people with a novel yet intuitive intervention”. So how does the CaT Pin work? Well, if it all sounds a bit Big Brotherish be reassured the device doesn’t actually record a user’s conversations. Rather, the smart pin works by monitoring ambient sounds and word count throughout the day; it then contacts intervention services should levels drop too low.

Speaking about the CaT Pin at a recent inquiry into mental health, Bush, said: "At the moment we have nothing to tell us in real time if someone is isolated and lonely. It is important because you'll see a 26% increase in mortality if you're chronically isolated." The negative health consequences of loneliness and isolation are dramatic. They include disrupted sleep, high blood pressure, increased depression, lower immunity, increased cortisol levels, and generally lower overall wellbeing.


Having recently won a AU$10,000 industry grant, RMIT researchers have partnered with an aged care provider to continue work on the CaT Pin. The team hopes the device inspires further research into and engagement with the problems of social isolation and loneliness. “Being able to address loneliness,” said Bush, “can help us to provide a better quality of life for our ageing population.”

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