Smart applications of technology could offer a lifeline for older people at risk of social isolation and loneliness, according to new research from Appello.
New findings from the provider of technology enabled care services, in collaboration with Good Things Foundation, the UK’s leading digital inclusion charity, revealed that 7% of over 75 year olds don’t see anyone and 7% don’t speak to anyone in an average week.
Meanwhile, more than a quarter see two or less people in a week and 45% speak to two or less people and a third of people over 75-years-old admit to feeling lonely, and 30% feel socially isolated, occasionally or often.
Over half (56%) of older people welcome new technology if it improves their quality of life and the same number agrees that “technology can aid communication and help close the physical gap between distant family and friends,” according to Appello.
While a landline phone remains the most commonly used form of communications technology for over 75-year-olds (93%), personal safety alarms, installed in many supported or assisted living environments, are the second most popular – cited by one third of older people surveyed.
Tim Barclay, CEO of Appello, commented: “While not a substitute for human interaction, technology has the potential to connect the unconnected, helping reduce the risk of social isolation and loneliness. Our survey challenges the common misconception that older people don’t like or want technology – they absolutely do when it benefits their wellbeing and with the right support in place.
“In the future, smart devices and apps that support mobility, social inclusion and independence in supported housing could become as indispensable as personal alarms, pull cords and door entry systems are today – particularly as we see the switchover from analogue to digital.”
Janet Morrison, chair of the Campaign to End Loneliness, added: “Many people assume that if you live in supported housing, housing association or care homes you won’t be lonely – and that’s clearly not true!
“We know that social interaction is limited because of barriers created by physical disability and, or, cognitive impairment among residents but we should also acknowledge that additional barriers are created by risk adverse housing providers and, or, a failure to recognise the importance of maintaining social connections for older people.”