Research Report

Using technology to promote social connectedness: Insights from the T&Scon project

Citation

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/

Abstract
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. Key findings  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.

Keywords
Social isolation; loneliness; technology; social connectedness, coronavirus, social distancing; digital

Notes
Briefing based on: T&SCon: Technology and Social Connectedness, Final Report, available online at http://www.tec.scot

StatusPublished
Publication date31/05/2020
URLhttp://hdl.handle.net/1893/31231
Publisher URLhttps://www.stir.ac.uk/…olicy-briefings/
Place of publicationStirling

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