Can Digital Technology Enhance Social Connectedness Among Older Adults? A Feasibility Study

Barbara Barbosa Neves, Rachel Franz, Rebecca Judges, Christian Beermann, Ron Baecker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

140 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This study examined the feasibility of a novel communication technology to enhance social connectedness among older adults in residential care. Research suggests that technology can create opportunities for social connectedness, helping alleviate social isolation and loneliness. Studies on implementation and feasibility of such technological interventions, particularly among frail and institutionalized older adults, are scant. Data were gathered in a 3-month deployment with 12 older adults, including semistructured interviews with participants and relatives/friends, psychometric scales, field observations, and usability tests. Data were analyzed with qualitative profiling, thematic analysis, and Friedman tests. The technology was a feasible communication tool, although requiring an adaptation period. Use increased perceived social interaction with ties, but increased social connectedness (meaningful social interaction) was only reported by participants with geographically distant relatives. Sense of well-being and confidence with technology was enhanced, but negative effects were also observed. Findings are useful for researchers and practitioners interested in technological interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-72
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Applied Gerontology
Volume38
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • digital technology
  • loneliness
  • social connectedness
  • social isolation
  • technology acceptability

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