Loneliness and social isolation have significant impacts on older people’s health and wellbeing. This has been a priority issue for the Welsh Government since before the COVID-19 pandemic.
• During the pandemic, social distancing measures increased the risk of loneliness and social isolation and accelerated the use of technology to facilitate social contact and connection.
• This research addresses the question of how new and existing technologies have been used to address loneliness and social isolation among older adults during the pandemic and seeks to identify what can be learned for future efforts to tackle loneliness and social isolation among this group.
• Through a survey and interviews with health and social care professionals, and interviews with older adult service users, we explored enablers and barriers to adoption and use of new and existing technology, and the benefits and challenges of using technology to address loneliness and social isolation among older adults during the pandemic.
• While one-to-one phone calls were a key means of contact between service providers and older adult service users, other digital technologies were provided and used to enable and support social connections.
• A lack of skills, confidence and interest as well as physical resources limited uptake and use of technology among older adults. Heightened concerns about security and scams were another barrier for service users. There were also organisational barriers to the effective use of technology to broker social connections. Organisational readiness is required to support using technology for social connection.
• Where social isolation is amplified by a lack of physical resources and motivation, encouraging the uptake of digital technology to enable social connection is extremely challenging.
• The connections enabled by technology afforded a range of benefits for some service users during COVID-19 but did not replace or reproduce the value of face-to-face contact.
• Services for older people can capitalise on lessons learned by: embedding evaluation; enabling wider digital access through the smartphone as ‘entry point’ or gateway; managing the threat of scams; including assessment of technological readiness in routine assessments of older adult service users; and prioritising plans to increase the digital capacity of older adults even though – indeed because – the immediate crisis of COVID-19 has receded.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCardiff
PublisherWales Centre for Public Policy
Commissioning bodyThe Wales Centre for Public Policy
Number of pages85
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Core Funders:
Cardiff University
Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Welsh Government


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