Google Nest Hub Project

Google Nest Hub Project

Google Nest HubDuring January and February of 2021 Eleanor and I have been working with Dr. Michelle Porter, Director of the Centre of Aging, University of Manitoba, and Julie Terenne-Maynard, Executive Director, Manitoba Association of Residential and Community Care Homes for the Elderly on formulating a project using technology to reduce the isolation of personal care home residents. Isolation has become an even bigger problem in personal care homes and for the elderly in general during the Covid Pandemic.

We have felt the impact of Covid on our ability to visit with Eleanor’s brother who was in a personal care home suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Prior to March of 2020 we would visit him every 10 days or so. Beginning in the middle of March 2020 our access was reduced to nearly nil. He died on November 3rd, 2020 and from March to November you could see (when we were able to visit in person or by telephone) the impact of the forced isolation on his health. We would like to have had a technology whereby we could have visited him virtually. It was only after he died that we became aware of communication devices that could be directed by voice commands.

Google Nest Hubs are voice activated units that can amuse, aid, communicate without digital manipulation. For example, “Hey Google” (to get the attention of the Hub), “play Oscar Peterson.” The unit will access numerous pieces featuring Oscar Peterson. Some of his pieces will be video concerts, so you can watch as well as listen. You can watch movies, access recipes, access news broadcasts and weather forecasts, sports scores, some jokes, and even phone your relatives by simply addressing them by name. There is much more that Nest Hubs can do that we haven’t yet discovered with our 10 inch (screen) unit.

The project we participated in was stimulated by the Covid Epidemic when residents of long-term care facilities were more isolated and bored than usual. Nest Hub units were placed at no cost in a number of these facilities in “rural and urban Manitoba”. We, the Circle of Life Endowment Fund, participated financially in this project, topping up a government grant, enabling more nest hubs to be purchased and placed.

One to five Google Nest Hubs were provided to 80 long-term care facilities. Installation and operation support were provided. We participated in the design and testing of these supports as well. Surveys carried out afterwards found that there was an “overall positive response” to the nest hubs. Top three uses were personalized music, weather forecasts, and videos.

It is clear that the technologies underlying Nest Hubs have great promise in relieving the “three plagues of long-term care residences: helplessness, loneliness, and boredom.” In addition to Nest Hubs, robots are beginning to find uses in these facilities as well.

Research performed subsequent to the placements of the units was published in the journal Gerontology (Murphy et al., Gerontology (2022) 21:1.)(https://doi.org/10.4017/gt.2023.21.1.802.02)

Google Nest