Helping through haptics: Innovation pilots in care homes

16th June 2021 about a 3 minute read

We are delighted to be partnering with a range of care sector organisations to pilot the use of haptic technology in residential care homes. The innovative technology can simulate touch remotely and might be able to address the problem of loneliness and isolation which so many care home residents and their relatives are struggling with right now during the pandemic.

If haptics can be shown to work, the technology could bridge physical divides, enhance communication and bring comfort from afar while also keeping vulnerable care home residents safe during the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, it might have wider application in other contexts in a post-COVID world. As a starting point, it will be vital to understand how people experience this new technology before determining whether or how it can be used more widely.

Why are we doing this project now? 

Much has been written about the impact of the pandemic on residents of care homes, their relatives as well as care home workers. Rules for visiting residents in care homes have recently been updated and the steady trickle of results from human trials of different vaccines is providing hope for a more familiar futureDespite these adjustments, it is clear is that visiting loved ones is not as straightforward or simple as we would like, and for many loneliness and isolation is still a problem. Recently, Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty warned families not to hug elderly relatives over the Christmas period, highlighting how the problem of physical separation is far from over. 

The slide deck below demonstrates the problem people are faced with and we are considering different ways to solve this. If you are interested in working with us, or to receive updates on any pilots we initiate, please contact us at! 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult in ways that no one could have anticipated. Loneliness and isolation can be a serious problem at the best of times but has been exacerbated by the current situation and the restrictions that have been put place to stop the spread of the virus. This project is a great opportunity for piloting different approaches to bringing loved ones together when access is reduced. I’m excited to see how people feel about different forms of haptic technology and how it might improve their experiences in care settings now and in the future.” Dr Peter Bloomfield, FCC's Head of Policy and Research

What are the challenges we are looking to address?

We have developed our innovation project to explore the current challenges that are affecting care homes. Some of these challenges include:

  • More stringent infection control rules and regulations have been introduced during the pandemic forbidding or strictly limiting visitors to health and care facilities – preventing regular and physical contact between residents and their families for extended periods.
  • Many people in receipt of care who are shielding or living alone continue to experience only very limited human contact, with implications for their quality of life as well as rates of physical and mental ill-health amongst them.
  • Since March 2020, there have been more than 30,500 excess deaths among care home residents, and a further 4,500 among people receiving care in their own homes – often, in situations where friends and relatives have been unable to say goodbye or be with them in person, impacting on their experience of bereavement.

How you can get involved

  • Do you have other ideas to share on tackling these challenges? Take a look at the slide deck below for more information and let us know your thoughts.
  • Are you are interested in working with us, or receiving updates on any pilots we initiate? Please get in touch.

Read our slide deck to find out more about the project, the challenges we’re exploring and how you can get involved.

  • Innovation for visiting care homes
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