McCabe L, Dawson A, Douglas E, Bowes A, Wilson M & Pemble C (2020) Using technology to promote social connectedness: Insights from the T&Scon project. University of Stirling. Stirling. https://www.stir.ac.uk/research/public-policy-hub/policy-briefings/
Loneliness and social isolation can affect anyone, with policymakers recognising the impact of isolation on individual wellbeing and public health. In 2018 the Scottish Government set out its approach to tackling social isolation in A Connected Scotland, a national strategy to achieve a Scotland “where individuals and communities are more connected, and everyone has the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships regardless of age, stage, circumstances, or identity.”
A priority of the strategy is to create opportunities for people to connect, with a specific commitment to work with older age groups to “understand how digital technology can add value to their lives in a way that is meaningful”, informing wider work to deliver the Scottish Government’s Digital Strategy for Scotland.
The Technology and Social Connectedness (T&Scon) project explored the potential of technology to support social connectedness for adults living in Scotland, producing a toolkit to provide guidance for individuals and organisations on the use of digital technology in building and maintaining social connections.
This briefing paper, drawing on the project’s key findings and recommendations, provides a summary of key information for policymakers and practitioners in Scotland, and further afield. Its findings will be of particular interest to those who are developing new ways of keeping in touch, as the risk of social isolation becomes
more pronounced in the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic.
A wide range of UK and international technology-based and technology-enabled services exist, designed to support social connectedness, targeted at different adult age user groups. Most
technologies used in this way are intended for people living at home although there are technologies in use and in development for the care home sector.
Data from the Healthy Ageing in Scotland (HAGIS) study revealed patterns of social connectedness among people over the age of 50 living across Scotland. Patterns of technology use across different
groups suggest that those who are least socially connected may also be those least likely to utilise technology to connect with others.
Careful evaluation of the target user group is an important factor in the successful adoption of technology-based solutions, breaking down assumptions about who uses technology and who doesn’t,
and understanding the risks and opportunities of using technology for this purpose.
Social isolation; loneliness; technology; social connectedness, coronavirus, social distancing; digital
Briefing based on: T&SCon: Technology and Social Connectedness,
Final Report, available online at http://www.tec.scot