The Liverpool 5G Create: Connecting Health and Social Care project is demonstrating how 5G can help combat loneliness with their ‘Haptic Hug’ use case.
Research has linked social isolation and loneliness to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions: high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death. Older adults who reported experiencing social isolation or loneliness showed poorer cognitive function 4 years later. Conversely, people who engage in meaningful activities with others tend to live longer, boost their mood, and have a sense of purpose. These activities seem to help maintain their well-being and studies show may improve their cognitive function.
With an ageing population, loneliness and social isolation is a real concern, and puts the UK’s health and wellbeing at risk. The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the issue, particularly in care homes, where residents have been unable to see their family or friends for many months at a time.
Haptic Hug is a special shirt worn by a resident in a care home, with haptic technology linked to an app used by friends or family outside the care home. When a resident is wearing the shirt, their loved one can ‘hug’ them via the app, and the shirt squeezes the resident who feels the sensation of a hug. This device will be provided by the L5G Create project for care homes to use with their residents.
Used on the L5G Create private 5G network, the device requires a level of connectivity similar to simultaneously streaming HD video and audio, which 3G and 4G struggle to support. The network is provided free – or for less than current costs – to care homes for the use of health, social care and wellbeing, as part of the Liverpool 5G Create: Connecting Health and Social Care project, with free or reduced connectivity costs freeing up spend for frontline services.
The device increases wellbeing for care home residents who feel less lonely, and reduces feelings of isolation in families who are separated and unable to see each other in person. It provides the ability to safely give and receive remote hugs, reducing isolation and loneliness, and has a positive impact on health and wellbeing, reducing the health risks associated with loneliness.