PhD Researcher

My PhD title is: What potential do virtual assistants have to improve wellbeing in the oldest old demographic? 

My Background

My current roles include visiting lecturer at Bedfordshire University, lecturer for the University Centre at City of Bristol, College, Subject Matter Expert for Virtual College, education author for national awarding bodies, Expert by Experience for the Care Quality Commission with a focus on services for older adults and issue-based advocate.

I started working in the social care sector in 2003 as a Kitchen Assistant in a nursing home.  Over the following 16 years I developed a career in adult social care, working in a diverse range of settings in both frontline and Senior Management positions.     

Since 2014 I have worked as a health and social care consultant, assisting non-compliant services for older adults to achieve regulatory standards and develop innovative practice. I am also an Ambassador for the Campaign to End Loneliness and Dementia Champion.

I graduated from the Open University with a BA Open Health and Social Care in 2016 and in 2018 I graduated from Swansea University with an MSc Gerontology and Ageing with Distinction.

I am passionate about making technology accessible to older adults and have successfully supported older adults to use technology to enhance their independence and wellbeing.

My Research

Technology has the potential to promote older adult’s wellbeing, reducing feelings of loneliness and supporting psychological wellbeing. Yet the interaction between older adults and technology is a largely under researched area, providing the backdrop for my PhD research commencing in 2019.

Adopting mixed methods research design, my research seeks to shed light on the impact virtual assistants e.g. Amazon Alexa can have on the wellbeing of older adults residing in several care settings located within ENRICH CYMRU. 

Older adults and practitioners will be provided with the opportunity to use and provide their views on virtual assistants.  Their input will shape the development of a co-produced digital toolkit and application or skill specification for virtual assistants requested by older adults.

Woven into the research the challenges older adults experience when interacting with virtual assistants will be examined.  To identify the function practitioners play in assisting older adults to access virtual assistants, practitioners will be integrated into the data collection process.


Dr Deborah Morgan, Dr Charles Musselwhite



Picture of Laura Sheerman