In her living room in Pittsburg, Calif., a small city not far from Silicon Valley, Sue Karp begins every day by greeting her robot companion, ElliQ. The robot greets her back.
āIāve got dogs, but they donāt exactly come up and say āGood morningā in English,ā says Ms. Karp, 61, who was forced to retire early by a stroke and now lives alone.
At the opposite end of the country, in Pembroke Pines, Fla., 87-year-old Marilyn Sumkin uses an app called Join Papa to summon what the company calls āgrandchildren on demand.ā College students show up for shopping, chores and chit-chat.
Studies have found that loneliness is worse for health than obesity or inactivity, and is as lethal as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Itās also an epidemic: A recent study from Cigna Corp. found that about half of Americans are lonely. According to a recent Harvard University study, the cost of loneliness for Medicare is $6.7 billion a year.
Many have argued that technology is a cause of this epidemic, isolating us from face-to-face communication with others even as it supercharges our economy. But tech can also be part of the solution, says psychologist (and Wall Street Journal contributor) Susan Pinker, whose book, āThe Village Effect: How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier and Happier,ā describes the day-to-day interactions that are integral to a long and satisfying life.
All humans need deep connections to friends and family. But, as Dr. Pinker discovered when studying the exceptionally