Home Articles Australian startup Conpago tackles social isolation issue for the elderly with robotics

Australian startup Conpago tackles social isolation issue for the elderly with robotics

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Aged care tech startup, Conpago, is combining software, robotics and the humble kettle to reduce loneliness and enable connection in the elderly, with a suite of intuitive products.

With one in three Australian seniors living in social isolation as the rest of the population becomes more inseparable from technology, Conpago creates solutions that bridge that gap. It helps older people connect with family, participate in their community and maintain independence by integrating technology with their daily habits to learn new skills.

The core of Conpago’s system is the Conpago Companion, tablet-based software that takes the core features of a smartphone, such as calling, text messages and calendar reminders, and lays them out in a way that is relevant and intuitive for the elderly. Aged care providers can use the Companion as a portal to build strong communities by remotely uploading events and news, fostering conversation and raising resident morale.

What is the inspiration behind Conpago?

“With so much evidence showing the impacts of loneliness, we’re passionate about empowering the elderly to be able to digitally engage with their family and community in the ways that the rest of us take for granted,” said Co-founder and CEO Marley Brown.

“Conpago is easy to understand, includes voice prompts and reminders which help introduce it into the elderly person’s daily activities, and has a focus on hyper-relevant features such as medication reminders and community news.”

The Conpago team

In an exciting new venture through QUTBluebox, Conpago has integrated their system with the robot Pepper, the product of SoftBank Robotics Corp., as part of the Robotics Accelerator 2018 program that is the PoC project initiated by the Queensland Government and ST Solutions Australia – the first Australian subsidiary of SoftBank Corp.

Pepper has been optimized for engaging with people through conversation and the touch screen. Pepper is an assistant capable of recognizing faces and basic human emotions to welcome, inform and entertain people in an innovative way.

Already used in libraries, banks, stores and more throughout the world, the integration will mean Pepper can act not only as a host in aged care facilities, but will be an endearing companion who reminds residents of their individual schedules and guides them throughout their day.

Director of ST Solutions Australia (SoftBank), Takatoshi Watanabe says, “At SoftBank Robotics, we have many projects to provide to the world to benefit humanity, one of them being Pepper, the humanoid robot. Pepper responses adapt to interactions and due to the friendliness and approachable nature of Pepper, the robot is already being used in Japanese Aged Care centres to help the elderly with specific tasks.”

ST Solutions Australia has been collaborating with Conpago to improve the current standards of care in the industry, and to show that needs in other countries like Japan will be required here in Australia too.”

Taking aged care forward

Outside dedicated aged care facilities, Conpago is also helping elderly people still living at home to maintain independence and a passive link to family. It can be connected to regularly used appliances such as the TV or kettle, logging when the user switches the appliance on and sending a warning after unusual periods of inactivity.

“Conpago integrates with appliances that form part of an elderly person’s routine, notifying family members when they are active,” says Conpago’s Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder Mackenzie Jackson.

According to the AIHW , 1 in 3 older Australians fall at least once each year, and 100,000 elderly are hospitalised each year for an average of 7 days following a fall. Up to 47% of elderly who fall are unable to get up without assistance. Spending more than one hour on the floor after a fall is not only a sign of muscle weakness, but also a sign of illness and social isolation.

In fact, half of those who lie on the floor for an hour or longer die within 6 months, even if there is no direct injury from the fall. The risk of this happening is highest for people living alone, and call alarms or emergency pendants have proved to often be ineffective, as they are often not used or worn during the fall (Fleming & Brayne, 2008).

Jackson continues, “The user doesn’t need to do anything but go about their day, while Conpago sends their loved ones unobtrusive messages to let them know they’re OK, or more importantly, warnings if something seems amiss.”

Conpago-integrated Pepper robots are available to rent in aged-care facilities.

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