How An App Can Help Fight Loneliness In Old People At Christmas

How An App Can Help Fight Loneliness In Old People At ChristmasHalfpoint/Shutterstock

Loneliness, as a leading cause of depression and obesity, is believed to cost £6,000 per person in health and social care services. Loneliness is especially prevalent during the winter holidays, perhaps intensified by the short days, bad weather and the impression that everyone else is enjoying the festive season with family and friends.

While loneliness is experienced by all ages, it is especially pronounced in older people. In the UK, 51% of all people aged 75 and over live alone and approximately 6% of older adults leave their house once a week or less. An increasing proportion of these older adults live in rural areas.

In an age when services and information are increasingly available online, might technology play a role in addressing loneliness and social isolation?

Our research was conducted in South Lakeland – a rural community of Cumbria in Northern England. Residents aged 65 years and older account for 24.2% of the population here, against a national average of 17%. While there are two towns, the majority of the population live in villages, hamlets and isolated dwellings.

We ran 26 workshops and conducted 93 interviews over a period of two years with people living in the area who were aged 65 years or older and with staff and volunteers that work for the government and charities. Our study tried to find out what older adults do to maintain social interaction, how they plan for it and what role technology could play to help them.

We found that older people believe meeting face-to-face with people is especially meaningful compared to telephone and online interactions. Take the example of Jack, who is 80 years old and who lives in a rural village.

How An App Can Help Fight Loneliness In Old People At ChristmasGoing out during winter in rural areas can often be hindered by bad weather and difficult driving conditions. Shaun Barr/Shutterstock

His wife had a spinal stroke recently and doesn’t like him leaving her alone at home for more than a few hours each day. He actively looks for social opportunities outside the house and has joined exercise classes and organised a monthly lunch for friends. This gives him a chance to relax and alleviate the burden of care and his story shows the value of regular activities to older people.

Most of the older adults in the study found out about social events through printed adverts in public places such as libraries, through talking to people or via the internet. Since the information was spread across different sources and in different formats, it made finding out about social events challenging for older adults.

Crucially, we found that being socially connected means more than just knowing what is taking place, as Margaret explained:

If I do find out something is going on, I then need to find out how to get there, what the facilities are, what the weather will be and who else might be going.

How technology can help

Transport, weather, daylight and toilet facilities all determined whether our respondents could get out and enjoy themselves. Public transport was a popular choice for people in the district, but was said to be plagued by limited routes, infrequent services, long journey times and high costs. The different transport providers also make their timetables available separately and in different formats.

As a result, social events were often inaccessible. Travelling during the winter months by car was difficult due to the distances and dark country roads. While planning to attend an event, many wanted to know the weather forecast and if they would be home before dark. They also liked to know about toilet facilities en route and at the venue. They wanted to know the distance and route they would need to walk from the bus stop or car park. Without these assurances, social situations were difficult to plan and manage.

One striking statistic provided by the charity Age UK South Lakeland suggested that only 17% of their clients currently access the internet. As Jack explains:

Family and friends often use technology to find out things for me when I am stuck. However, most of my friends do not have internet access. They did not use technology in their working lives, as they were either farmers or manual workers. They still just ring people up or ask their children or grandchildren to use technology for them.

How An App Can Help Fight Loneliness In Old People At ChristmasThe residents of South Lakeland helping develop the app. Niall Hayes, Author provided

Technology can help, as long as it focuses on helping older people with overcoming the concerns that hold them back from meeting people outside the house. Using the insights from the research, we developed an app that draws on open data about events and volunteering opportunities nearby.

Older people can create user profiles to set their preferences for events according to cost and location. They can then review the transport options and routes to the event on an age-friendly map which includes the location of bus stops and car parks as well as nearby toilets and benches. If they select an event they want to attend, it’s recorded in a calendar. The app can also be accessed by family, friends or carers who can search and plan on their behalf. This allows for the app to also be beneficial to older adults that do not have internet access.

But, even with this support, it’s striking how few listings of events and transport options were available for older people over the festive period. Without more efforts to remedy the crisis of loneliness and isolation in the elderly, the festive season may still be anything but a season of cheer for many.The Conversation

About The Author

Niall Hayes, Professor of Information & Organisation, Lancaster University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Related Books

{amazonWS:searchindex=Books;keywords=growing old lonely;maxresults=3}


 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

You May Also Like

INNERSELF VOICES

internet company logos
Why Google, Facebook and The Internet are Failing Humanity and Little Critters
by Robert Jennings, InnerSelf.com
What is increasingly obvious is the dark side that is engulfing the internet and is spreading…
Full moon in the night sky
Horoscope Current Week: October 18 - 24, 2021
by Pam Younghans
This weekly astrological journal is based on planetary influences, and offers perspectives and…
girl wearing a Covid mask outside carrying a backpack
Are You Ready to Take Off Your Mask?
by Alan Cohen
Sadly, the Covid pandemic has been a rough ride for lots of people. At some point, the ride will be…
girl wearing a hat deep in thought
Putting A New Spin On Our Thoughts and Experiences
by Jude Bijou
What goes on in the world, just is the way it is. How we interpret other people, things, and…
illustration of a film strip with various scenic pictures on each frame
Designing a New Future for Yourself
by Carl Greer PhD, PsyD
In the physical world, things have a past and a future, a beginning, and an end. For example, I’m…
teacher standing in front of students in an open classroom
Becoming Passionate About Public Education Again
by Robert Jennings, InnerSelf.com
We are almost all lucky to have someone in our lives to encourage and motivate us and try to show…
people walking and bicycling through a park
Finding Your Way and Flowing with The Mystery of Life
by Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf.com
Life. It's something we all have in common, no matter our religion, our race, our gender, our…
Flower growing through a chain-link fence
So Many Questions... So Many Answers?
by Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf.com
We go through life with so many questions. Some are simple. What day is it? What will I have for…
You Are Free To Change Your Story At Any Time!
You Are Free To Change Your Story At Any Time!
by Sarah Love McCoy
Who makes up the story of what we should do and what's expected of us? You guessed it. We do! And…
What Motivates Your Choice of The World You Prefer?
What Motivates Your Choice of the World You Prefer?
by Alan Cohen
The reasons for our choices prevail at a level below our conscious mind. Every living thing does…
The Art of Speaking Up and Taking Charge of Your Life
The Art of Speaking Up and Taking Charge of Your Life
by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.
Both men and women have to learn to speak up in order to take charge of their lives and cultivate…

MOST READ

How Living On The Coast Is Linked To Poor Health
How Living On The Coast Is Linked To Poor Health
by Jackie Cassell, Professor of Primary Care Epidemiology, Honorary Consultant in Public Health, Brighton and Sussex Medical School
The precarious economies of many traditional seaside towns have declined still further since the…
The Most Common Issues for Earth Angels: Love, Fear, and Trust
The Most Common Issues for Earth Angels: Love, Fear, and Trust
by Sonja Grace
As you experience being an earth angel, you will discover that the path of service is riddled with…
How Can I Know What's Best For Me?
How Can I Know What's Best For Me?
by Barbara Berger
One of the biggest things I've discovered working with clients everyday is how extremely difficult…
What Men’s Roles In 1970s Anti-sexism Campaigns Can Teach Us About Consent
What Men’s Roles In 1970s Anti-sexism Campaigns Can Teach Us About Consent
by Lucy Delap, University of Cambridge
The 1970s anti-sexist men’s movement had an infrastructure of magazines, conferences, men’s centres…
Honesty: The Only Hope for New Relationships
Honesty: The Only Hope for New Relationships
by Susan Campbell, Ph.D.
According to most of the singles I have met in my travels, the typical dating situation is fraught…
Chakra Healing Therapy: Dancing toward the Inner Champion
Chakra Healing Therapy: Dancing toward the Inner Champion
by Glen Park
Flamenco dancing is a delight to watch. A good flamenco dancer exudes an exuberant self-confidence…
Giving Up All Hope Could Be Beneficial For You
Giving Up All Hope Could Be Beneficial For You
by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.
If you're waiting for a change and frustrated it's not happening, maybe it would be beneficial to…
An Astrologer introduces the Nine Dangers of Astrology
An Astrologer introduces the Nine Dangers of Astrology
by Tracy Marks
Astrology is a powerful art, capable of enhancing our lives by enabling us to understand our own…

follow InnerSelf on

facebook icontwitter iconyoutube iconinstagram iconpintrest iconrss icon

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

AVAILABLE LANGUAGES

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeeliwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptroruesswsvthtrukurvi

New Attitudes - New Possibilities

InnerSelf.comClimateImpactNews.com | InnerPower.net
MightyNatural.com | WholisticPolitics.com | InnerSelf Market
Copyright ©1985 - 2021 InnerSelf Publications. All Rights Reserved.