How technology can support social connections for older people
A MICRA researcher has investigated how information and communication technology can be used support social connections for older people.
Sophie Yarker, a Research Fellow at the University, has conducted a brief literature review for Ambition for Ageing on the use of information and communication technologies to support social connections for older people.
In responding to COVID-19 we have all been grappling with new ways of maintaining social contact whilst also observing social distancing and self-isolation guidance. Current academic literature on the role of digital technology for maintaining social connections for older people is patchy, with very little in the way of guidance around best practice.
However, we have identified some guiding principles of engaging older people with digital technologies which seem particularly salient given the current pandemic situation;
- When introducing older people to new technology it is important that this is led by their needs. For example, being clear about how an app can benefit a particular aspect of their lives, such as keeping in touch with friends, can improve take-up rates.
- Learning how to use new technologies can be greatly enhanced by peer support. Although digital technologies might be new to some, there are many older people who are confident users and this could be embraced.
- The use of digital technologies can bring a sense of empowerment to older people. By giving and receiving support and information, there is the potential to develop reciprocal intergenerational and peer relationships here.
Of course, the realities of digital exclusion and risks posed by online fraud should not be overlooked, but there is still a lot being done to make digital technologies a supportive part of everyday life for older people. More research, however, is clearly needed, particularly research that considers how diverse groups of older people engage with different types of technologies.