Addressing Social Isolation in older adults and Vulnerable People

Addressing social isolation is a real challenge, and you might think that social isolation and new technology would be poles apart – but that simply isn’t the case. In this blog, we’ll look at the impact of technology on older adults’ social isolation in Almshouses, and how we’ve been able to reduce social isolation among older adults and other vulnerable residents. Not only that, but reduce costs for the Almshouses charities themselves, as well as their residents.

There has been too little innovation or use of technology to support vulnerable groups of people who may suffer social isolation, and the current care system simply cannot cope with the level of community outreach that would be required to address this serious social problem.

Loneliness and Social Isolation

There are clear links between loneliness and social isolation. Research shows that chronic social isolation increases the risk of mental health issues like anxiety, depression, or substance abuse. In addition, people who are socially isolated are at higher risk of chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes, and dementia in older adults.

This is a particular issue amongst older adults who may have lost a spouse and have little family, or family who are too distant to visit regularly. And of course, as people age, their peer group will reduce through illness, people moving into care homes, and death. It’s a similar picture for people living with disabilities, and people with mental health issues. There is often a lack of social care available in the community, so people can become isolated easily.

In the case of almshouses, the community of residents improves this situation, but access to care and support can still be daunting for people who are likely living by themselves and may not have access to the right means to communicate. Cost could be a prohibitive factor for people accessing telephones, computers, and so on.

Reducing social Isolation Using Technology

Eaglegate-AlmshousesTo fully understand how technology does not isolate us, but rather opens up new opportunities in terms of both enabling people to communicate more easily with the outside world, and utilising technologies to improve quality of life, read our case study Using ICT to reduce social isolation – The Lady D’Arcy Almshouse Charity

In the Lady D’Arcy almshouses, we installed high-speed broadband into every property, VoIP telephones for every resident, emergency alarms running through the same high speed, digital connection, and even door entry so that residents could see exactly who was calling on them. The entry phone intercoms mean that not only can the caller be identified before the door was opened, but they could be set up to divert to a mobile phone, or support services if the call remains unanswered.

The nature of this technology means that every device, whether an IoT device like speakers or computers, or technology like entry intercoms, can all be run through one high-speed broadband connection. By working with a number of partners we were able to provide a highly cost-effective solution to the almshouses and residents.

By making broadband affordable for Lady D’Arcy residents, Foxhall Solutions, working with Amphora, has reduced their social isolation and new technology has provided a way for them to keep in touch with neighbours, friends, and family. NotAmphora Trading only that, but we have improved access to Medical, Social and Support services. They can do this using their phones, tablets, and Internet-connected devices. And we have also provided solid low-latency connections to entertainment services on TV, and to local/national radio through smart speakers and similar devices.

There has been social isolation and technology dependence research carried out that demonstrates the clear link between social isolation and new technology. You can read the report published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research here 

Does technology really help in combating isolation?

We’ve already looked in brief at social isolation and new technology among older adults, and the risks of becoming socially isolated are clear. Our work with Lady D’Arcy Almshouses demonstrates clearly that technology does combat isolation. We were available to help residents get set up, and feedback from residents since the completion of our installation has been positive. Consider the technology that can be made available through high-speed broadband. VoIP technology makes phone lines easy and cost-effective to install.

Using the same broadband connectivity, emergency alarms, internet, and IoT devices can be utilised more easily and effectively. It’s not just the fact that you can install multiple devices. But the speeds available mean that devices work effectively. If you’re not familiar with broadband speeds you may be confused if things hang up, or run slowly. And that means the adoption of new technology is lower. So the installation of high-speed broadband opens up opportunities for people to utilise technology that can help them to reduce their social isolation.

How does technology promote isolation?

It wouldn’t be right if we didn’t comment on the “technology isolates us debate”. It is all too easy for people to use social media, gaming, and so on as a surrogate for real-world interactions. And there is plenty of research that shows that these technologies can promote social isolation. The technology provides access to new channels, and people can become isolated quickly and easily by spending too much time on social channels and so on. Take a look at this research 

The issue of social isolation and new technology in this case relates more to a younger audience, and people who are living with a disability or are less mobile.

Find out more about our projects

To find out more about social isolation and new technology, and our work in this area contact us here [email protected] or call 01787 228 402

Foxhall Solutions is a dynamic and innovative Information Communications Technology (ICT) provider.  We are passionate about the communities we serve and we’re inspired by our goals to develop relationships through integrity and to build a business with a conscience. We are an ICT company with many years experience in planning, deploying and supporting computer & telephone systems.

We’ve been involved with Mission Critical IT and telecoms for the Civil Aviation and Banking/Finance industries since 1976 – with VoIP deployment commencing in 2007. That means we understand convergent VoIP technologies from both sides – Data Networking as well as Voice Communications.