Older people are more connected to the Internet than ever before. How has this changed since the Covid-19 pandemic? The University of Stirling Research reveals the results of studies that uncover the impact technology has had on seniors from before and during the start of Covid-19.
Understanding the coping mechanisms adopted by some aged over 60 during the pandemic will play a key role in developing interventions to help tackle loneliness, isolation and wellbeing in the future. The study, led by the Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport, surveyed 1,429 participants – 84 per cent (1,198) of whom were over 60 – and found many had adapted to video conferencing technology to increase online contact with existing social networks, while others reconnected with previous networks.
Participants reported that lockdown had led them to engage with neighbours and other members of their communities for the first time, while several said social distancing had brought an additional meaning to life, by highlighting what was important to them. Published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, the paper comes six months after the study – funded under the Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office’s Rapid Research in COVID-19 programme – reported in its preliminary findings that social distancing had increased feelings of loneliness in older people.
Professor of Behavioural Medicine, Anna Whittaker, who led the study, said: “Our research found that the COVID-19 lockdown triggered feelings of loneliness in older people – with many experiencing less social contact and support. However, the study also highlighted positive outcomes, for example, lockdown encouraged some older people to embrace and engage with technology – such as Zoom, Whatsapp or FaceTime – to stay in touch with loved ones or participate in exercise classes or religious groups.”
Those who engaged in such activity were able to prevent high levels of loneliness, therefore, helping older adults to increase their digital literacy. Use of remote social interactions could be a really important tool for addressing loneliness. “Participants also reported actively looking for new social contact while restrictions were in places - such as contacting friends who they had not spoken to in years and increasing interactions with neighbours and other members of their communities. Significantly, many of our participants reported that social distancing has actually led them to find new sources of satisfaction in life,” Whittaker said.