Mobile and broadband technologies for ameliorating social isolation in older people

Social isolation Broadband Mobile phones Ageing Well-being Information technology Australia

We provided a group of older people and their care managers with touch tablet devices (iPads), and a new iPad application (‘Enmesh’ – Engagement through Media Sharing), which was purpose-built for this study. Participants used the Enmesh application to exchange photographs and messages. By creating and sharing content, the older people in our study were able to build social connections in order to help alleviate their experience of social isolation.

Participants used the application for a period of ten weeks. During that time we conducted interviews and observations to gauge their experiences of using the technology. Overall, the results of the trial were very positive. For the older people in our study, the ability to record and share photographs and messages had a positive effect on participants’ wellbeing and played a role in alleviating feelings of social isolation.

Importantly, this trial involved evaluating the use of technology in a particular social setting. Participants were introduced to each other in a face-to-face setting, and care managers were invited to take part in the trial. These features of the trial were both crucial in ensuring the success of the project. Furthermore, this project was unique in that it:

• Focused on an older age group (most of our participants were aged in their 80s and 90s),

• Involved participants who were genuinely socially isolated, and

• Developed and evaluated a technology application that was designed specifically to meet the needs of socially isolated elders.

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