Discover the relationship between the elderly and technology and the positive and negative effects on social interaction, isolation and loneliness.
For those riding the tech revolution wave over the past couple of decades, there’s no doubt your life has probably become a lot easier and interconnected.
However, for those a bit older and perhaps less tech-literate, a digital divide is causing potential health issues such as depression and anxiety through social isolation.
In this blog, we explore the impact and potential of technology on social interaction in elderly care with some tips on how you can help bridge the gap for your service users
Technology and Social Isolation in the Elderly
Whether we’re helping an older loved one download a new app or showing them how to use online banking, I’m sure we can all relate to that digital divide between ourselves and older relatives.
But this disparity can be no laughing matter when we consider the mental health issues some elderly people face through isolation and loneliness.
Elderly and Social Isolation
A checklist from the Campaign to End Loneliness shows that around 20% of the older UK population is lonely, with 8-10% considered “intensely lonely”. These numbers report over 700,000 people in the UK aged over 65 suffering from loneliness regularly.
While potentially increasing unhealthy stress levels, social isolation is also associated with increased risks of mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and sleep problems.
Older people can be more at risk of loneliness due to a range of factors affecting their health and lifestyle.
Some of these factors include:
But as we consider loneliness a national epidemic and one of the largest public health challenges we face in the UK, what does technology have to do with it?
The Digital Divide
Witnessing the rapid growth of technology in recent years can be described as no less than unprecedented.
From smartphones to social media platforms and digital communication tools, it seems no aspect of our society remains uninfluenced by this phenomenon.
However, besides the numerous benefits, those (particularly the elderly) held back from integrating into our new modern way of life face social isolation as the rest of us enjoy new realms of social interconnection.
Therefore, the rise of technology has shifted social dynamics from in-person conversation to virtual exchanges and reduced physical interaction.
What was once a typical way of life has transformed almost beyond recognition.
And for some elderly people struggling to adjust, they may now find themselves potentially cut adrift from the rest of the world unless they develop the skills to use technology to counteract their isolation.
Technology to Reduce Social Isolation and Loneliness for the Elderly
As we’ve gathered technology has its challenges and consequences when creating a disparity between generations and inducing isolation in the elderly.
But just as it can divide, technology has incredible potential to connect people and hopefully reduce loneliness for the elderly generations here in the UK.
Digital literacy programmes for seniors exist to help curb the issue, alongside opportunities for families, friends, and carers to support those less technologically literate by introducing technology in a way they understand and value.
Whether an elderly daycare centre or nursing home organises a digital literacy programme or you provide a friendly one-on-one lesson with your client, it can be an easy, effective, and stimulating way to help bridge the gap of social isolation while improving the connection and relationship with your clients.
Using platforms like Facebook, Skype and instant messaging are other great ways to lower levels of loneliness, improve self-related health and reduce chronic illnesses and depressive syndrome.
How Do We Reduce Social Isolation for the Elderly with Technology?
Besides investing in digital literacy programmes, helping to reduce social isolation for the older generations is achievable through bringing technology into our elderly community centres while demonstrating how to create and sustain intergenerational relationships.
By making technology less alien and inclusive, older people and communities can realise it can enhance their lives and reduce their loneliness.
Alongside our communal efforts, as professionals in the adult social care sector, we can help our clients one-on-one.
We suggest applying the following advice for some helpful ways to help your elderly clients with new technology:
Stress the importance of safety and protection online with secure passwords, cyber security, and privacy settings.
The internet can be an unknown and overwhelming concept to an older person. Therefore, take things slowly at first. Show them how to use messaging apps like WhatsApp and Messenger so they can stay connected with family members and go from there.
There can be lots to remember, with specific websites, email addresses and login details, so encourage them to write things down so they don’t forget.
Lastly, try and remain patient as they learn the ropes of their device. You should expect there to be lots of repetition and questions.
Help Elderly Communities Stay Connected with a Role in Adult Social Care
At Herefordshire Cares, we help match the right people with rewarding careers in care for various service users across Herefordshire.
So, if you want to find out more information about any of our vacancies, feel free to get in touch and ask any questions.