We’ve probably all seen a newspaper headline arguing that technology is a cause of loneliness (“Loneliness in Britain is the legacy of social media and our high tech lives”) or an easy cure (“Give pensioners iPads to stop them feeling lonely, ministers indicate”).

But life, and technology, is rarely that simple and we need a more nuanced debate around the way technology can – or cannot – prevent and alleviate loneliness in older age. On 22 July, the Campaign to End Loneliness hosted a workshop to discuss the role technology and telecare could play in keeping us connected, and help us deal with loneliness in later life.

Watch a short film of what we discussed

Download our workshop report here.

Read attendees’ “Top Ten” tips for using technology to combat loneliness

The workshop was attended by 11 charities, 6 social businesses/design agencies, 4 housing associations, 3 researchers, 1 local authority and 1 manager from the Department of Health. They came up with a range of tips and ideas for any using technology to combat loneliness, including:

  1. Get creative! Consider getting a group together to use computers and recording equipment to start a podcast or take inspiration from Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir
  2. Another imaginative way to get older people using computers or tablets is to stream music on an iPod or iPad through a gramophone or jukebox:

    “We use a homemade jukebox using an iPad. Guests at our events touch the screen to choose a song. When we take it apart to show them they have been using an iPad it creates a very positive reaction that we can build on.”
  3. Identify technologies and apps that can help you improve the quality of conversations with old or new friends. For starters, check out Mindings and Digital Shoebox
  4. Make the use of technology as purposeful as possible: take a look at Granny Cloud
  5. Could you do with some free training? Barclay Bank’s Digital Eagles or Tea and Teach might help or if you are a care home, Go On Adopt  could find you student teachers
  6. Where possible, use technology that is already in someone’s home. For example telephone befriending or video calling through the TV
  7. Think about how technology can start conversations around common interests:“We use a table and a projector to screen black and white photos of our shared national history that can help provoke conversations at our events. It is particularly useful for new residents with no shared local knowledge”
  8. To build interest, focus on the benefit of a particular technology; don’t just describe what it does! This blog lists 40 reasons why an older relative might want to use the internet
  9. Websites like Hoax-Slayer can help overcome fear of scams or online abuse
  10. A virtual community can boost face-to-face support. For example, Rally Round can help you coordinate support from family and friends for an older relative in need of a bit of support

Presentations and Case Studies

Two researchers and two product designers spoke at this workshop. You can hear what they said by clicking on their name below: