A recent study has assessed use of Internet-Based Activities to Increase Social Participation and Decrease Loneliness Among Our Aging Population
The significant physical and social changes that accompany the aging process can make it challenging for seniors to maintain social contacts and activities. This puts seniors at risk for isolation and loneliness, and can dramatically reduce quality of life in the later years. Although the increasing importance of the Internet, and the digitization of our society more generally, can pose challenges for seniors, experts are now suggesting that these same factors, if properly harnessed, may in fact provide useful tools to help keep seniors engaged in the world around them, and thus combat loneliness.
A doctoral study conducted in Sweden examined some of the challenges seniors experience in using the Internet. The study was based on the theory that participation in meaningful activities can contribute to an individual’s health and overall satisfaction through interactions with others and the skills and experiences that are obtained. Not surprisingly, the study showed that many seniors were inhibited in their use of the Internet due to lack of skills, privacy issues, or limited access to devices or online services.
However, the study also found that when intervention programs were used to introduce seniors to social internet-based activities (Facebook, Skype, MSN, blogs, photo and video sharing websites, online communities and discussion forums), most seniors reported a decrease in experiences of loneliness, and increased feelings of satisfaction with their social interactions.
The study recommended focusing on interventions that improve seniors’ digital competence, giving them the ability to access and use Internet-based tools independently. These interventions have the potential to allow seniors to continue to be engaged in society and meaningfully connected with others.
The study affirms that satisfaction with one’s life can continue to be experienced even in the face of physical decline. Helping seniors to overcome the age-related digital divide is one way of supporting healthy aging and improved quality of life even in the later years.
Larsson, Ellinor (2016). Promoting social activities and participation among seniors: exploring and evaluating social and Internet-based occupational therapy interventions (Doctoral thesis), Retreived from Umeå University Medical Dissertations, New Series No 1765
Written by Linda Jensen