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Chen RY-R, Schulz PJ. The effect of information communication technology interventions on reducing social isolation in the elderly: A systematic review Journal of Medical Internet Research. 2016;18:e18.
Does information and communication technology (such as phone- and Internet-based programs) help reduce social isolation among older adults?
Risk of social isolation (reduced contact with others) increases with age. Social isolation affects both mental and physical health and can lead to depression, self-harm or self-neglect and even increased risk of death. As the world’s population ages, there is an increasing need to identify effective ways to increase social interaction and reduce isolation among older adults. Technology has the potential to help older adults at risk of social isolation (e.g. living alone and/or less mobile) by connecting them with others, including family, friends and other communities.
This is a systematic review of 25 studies, including 6 randomized controlled trials.
Information and communication technology (ICT) significantly improves measures of social isolation, including social contacts, social support, social connectedness and social networks in the short term (less than 6 months). Fifteen of 18 studies found that ICT significantly reduced loneliness among older adults.
ICT may not be right for everyone. Not all approaches were beneficial for all older adults and a relatively high rate of participants dropped out of the trials. The type of ICT approach may be an important factor; some approaches risked increasing social isolation (for example, non-reciprocal or one-way communication).
Rapid changes in the types, functions and availability of ICT, as well of a lack of clarity about who might benefit most from different ICT approaches points to a growing need for research in this area.
Information and communication technology is a promising way to reduce social isolation and loneliness among older adults.
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