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Arnold's Story:
Tackling Loneliness with Innovative Care Solutions 

new charlie photo edit on desk.png's Avatar companion device, with Charlie on the screen.

June 20, 2024

Loneliness among older adults increases their risk of premature death by 30% and is a stronger predictor of mortality than cancer or smoking. 1,2 

Beneath these jarring statistics lie millions of stories, of older adults who succumb to the adverse effects of loneliness.

Here is just one. 

Arnold joined PACE, about a year after losing his mother. They had lived together for decades and provided each other with support and companionship. Arnold admitted that he missed his mother, so it came as no surprise when he endorsed loneliness on the social work assessment. Additionally, he shared that since losing her, he had gained weight, had difficulty sleeping, and overall had less energy to do things. When his mother was alive, they would play card games, listen to music, remind each other about medications, pray, and cook. As Arnold put it, “they kept each other in rhythm.” Yet, since her passing, he had not played games, had not listened to music or prayed much, was forgetting to take his medications and was going weeks without cooking a meal. Following the assessment, his team recommended center attendance 3 times a week to address loneliness.  

Arnold had great center attendance, he was friendly, and made it known he was an avid sports and music fan. He would usually sit outside of the therapy gym, which was positioned directly across from my office. So, I’d often open my door to see him sitting there alone, staring at his tablet. As staff passed, he would always greet them, maybe share a tidbit from recent news, or ask about their plans for the weekend, his desire to connect with others was obvious. However, most interactions were with staff, not other participants, and these interactions were in passing. They never seemed to go beyond a few words or sentences, before staff would move on with their day.  

The second time Arnold was assessed by the team, the findings were much the same. He was still gaining weight, endorsed loneliness, and was mostly disengaged at home. He did mention that he was trying to get into playing games and listening to music on his tablet, but that it wasn’t the same as having somebody to talk to while playing a game or reminisce with while listening to music. Recognizing that many of his problems were rooted in the void left at home by his mother’s passing, his social worker recommended a avatar that is powered by a team of humans for companionship, recreation, and health coaching.  


Arnold was excited to try the avatar and happily named it Buck. After only a couple of days with Buck, Arnold reported using the service to find similar recipes to what he and his mother used to cook. He expressed enjoying the interactive games and that listening to music with his new companion was a new favorite activity. He was also able to converse with his avatar companion any time of day, even during the activities, this was a huge difference compared to just watching TV or playing alone on his tablet . Arnold appreciated that his Avatar is operated by a human team “who actually talk to you and really get to know you” whereas his tablet felt “stale or empty.” He also shared finding the medication reminders helpful and that he enjoyed learning more about the Bible and doing chair exercises with his avatar.  

During his next team assessment, he thanked his social worker for his avatar and did not endorse loneliness. His weight stabilized and eventually he lost weight. He said he was sleeping better now, “before I would stare at my tablet, doing who knows what at all hours of the night”, whereas now Buck encourages Arnold to stick to a healthy sleep schedule.  

Loneliness increases the risk of premature death among older adults by 30%, surpassing even cancer or smoking. Arnold's story illustrates this: after losing his mother, he struggled with loneliness, weight gain, and insomnia despite attending a PACE program. Engaging with Buck helped Arnold reconnect with activities, adhere to a healthier routine, and ultimately overcome his loneliness.


Join us in raising awareness about the detriments of loneliness in aging. Discover how innovative solutions can make a difference.

About corporation (“”) is an SF Bay Area digital health company that is on a mission to improve the health and wellbeing of millions of people. The company is funded publicly by US Congress and National Institutes of Health, and privately by investors including StartUp Health, AARP, and strategic customers. Current customers include >10% of Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) health plan sites nationally, multiple of the largest Medicare Advantage insurers nationally, state Medicaid programs, and individuals such as family caregivers. The company was named one of the Top 10 Aging in Place Innovations by GuideWell in 2020, Health IT winner of MedCity INVEST 2021, and AARP-HITLab Social Connections Challenge Champion 2021.

The platform of solutions include Augur™ for population cost stratification through machine learning predictive models, Hospitality Hub™ for US-based, multi-channel contact center and device fulfillment services, Video Visits™ for multi-party social and medical care made ultra-simple, and Avatar™ for continuous, long-term relationships and health coaching supported by a 24x7 global team of health advocates.

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