July 27, 2020 The BMS lab

The use, difficulties and promises of communication technology in preventing loneliness among elderly

Researchers Elles de Witte, Christian Wrede and Marcia da Silva are taking part in the challenge against loneliness amongst the elderly. Under the supervision of Dr. Annemarie Braakman, Prof. Dr. Lisette van Gemert-Pijnen and Dr. Thomas van Rompay, they have written a research proposal to study the role of communication technology in tackling the experienced isolation of the elderly and in providing care at a distance. The board has approved this proposal.

The recent Coronavirus outbreak in the Netherlands has left many of the Dutch society in isolation. Whether that be socially or literally. The elderly are a group that is particularly vulnerable to the effects of the virus and to isolation. Loneliness amongst the elderly has been an area of study at the University of Twente for some time. Studies have for example looked at sparking interaction to alleviate loneliness through digital representations of nature and the use of sensors and coaching from a distance. The corona crisis has sped up the acceptance of such technologies significantly, while many of the questions about these technologies remain unanswered.

Being closely linked to past and ongoing BMS research themes, the current project responds to the rapid implementation of communication technology in informal elderly care and seeks to understand what is needed to reach an optimal fit between technology, the competences of elderly and their context. The researchers will for example look at the needs of the elderly and the difficulties of using such technologies for caregivers. Moreover, they will look at the effects of the technologies´ use on overall wellbeing of the elderly. Furthermore, many of the barriers that may prevent optimal use of these technologies are still unknown. The researchers hope to contribute to reducing loneliness amongst the elderly and improving the use of communications technology in healthcare.