New CAST Case Study 1: Voice Assistant Technology Reduces Isolation

CAST | April 17, 2019

An AARP Foundation pilot program finds social connectedness tech brings more social interaction and reduces loneliness.

LeadingAge CAST has released a new case study, "Reducing Social Isolation in Affordable Senior Housing using Voice Assistant Technology." It demonstrates how voice-activated technology brought senior housing residents more social interaction, more perceived availability of support, and less loneliness.


A growing body of research indicates that older adults experience significant stress and risk for isolation and loneliness as they transition to senior housing—and that isolation prevalence rates in senior housing are around one in four residents (26%).


LeadingAge CAST Patron AARP Foundation initiated a pilot program to investigate how well hands-free, voice-activated technology could sustain social connectedness. The program focused on low-income older adults, age 50+, living in independent housing or federally subsidized rental properties. 

AARP Foundation collaborated with three senior housing providers to implement the pilot across five communities in Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, DC. Implementation included six key components:

  • Program guidance for implementation and installation of voice-activated technology.
  • Facilitated bulk purchasing of devices.
  • Staff and volunteer training.
  • Basic training curriculum and educational resources.
  • A suite of specialized voice-activated skills for social connectedness and resident engagement.
  • A web-based community management platform for resident services staff. 

To assess outcomes, pilot participants completed baseline and post surveys that included the 10-item Duke Social Support Index (DSSI) and three questions from the UCLA Loneliness Index. Participants also answered questions about their experiences, internet and device usage, self-efficacy using voice-activated technology, and Net Promoter Score (NPS).


Findings focused on the change in DSSI scores from baseline to follow-up among the 59 participants who completed both surveys.

  • Social interaction score: These survey questions addressed social engagement with other people. More than half of the 59 participants scored higher or equal to their baseline.
  • Subjective social support score: In response to questions about perceived availability of support, more than half of participants scored higher or equal to their baseline.
  • Loneliness score: The loneliness score was determined using the UCLA Loneliness Scale. Overwhelmingly, participants showed decreased feelings of loneliness.


AARP Foundation came away with several learnings that will be helpful to organizations pursuing similar voice-activated technology.

  • Provide Connectivity: Consider the availability and cost of Wi-Fi needed for voice-activated technology.
  • Avoid Technophobia: Do not let misperceptions about older adults' tech adoption prevent the use of this technology.
  • Implementation Is Not Complex: The program design takes into account resident services staff's capacity to introduce new programming and contains features that build staff capacity.
  • The Shared Journey of Learning Is Valuable: Hands-on experiential learning creates a fun and engaging way for residents to increase their comfort with and knowledge of devices, apps, and skills and connects community residents.
  • Training Is Important: Connected Communities developed a train-the-trainer model that allows organizations to implement voice-activated technology in a sustainable, cost-effective way that also builds technical support capacity right where people live.
  • Pilot Design and Delivery Is Accessible: The pilot was intentional about creating and delivering curriculum developed at a pace and with language that was accessible and relevant to seniors. Multimodal support and wraparound services available to both providers and participants throughout the pilot helped ease administrative burden and foster smooth implementation within communities. 

See the full case study. And be sure to check out the newly updated CAST Social Connectedness and Engagement Selection Tool, which can help you find and choose the best technology for your organization.