Combating Loneliness: Technology is Key
By Gayle Manicom
There have been two interesting reports out on loneliness this week. One, commissioned by Vodafone, on how technology can help reduce loneliness, and another on the state of ageing in Britain, which, depressingly, shows that a significant proportion of the population is at risk of suffering poverty, ill-health and hardship in later life.
If that’s the case, I am not sure how people who are elderly are going to afford the technology to reduce their loneliness – but I do think it’s a good idea, and hopefully technology is getting cheaper as it becomes more common place.
My parents-in-law, both in their eighties, love their mobile phones because they feel they are in touch with the rest of the family all the time. We share photos, jokes, stories, videos and it is rare that a day goes by without someone posting on the family WhatsApp group.
My mother, by contrast, lives alone and has many lonely days that bring her down. I know that if she was also engaging with us all via technology, she would definitely feel less lonely, but try as I might, I cannot get her to use a mobile phone. She is a willing pupil and has tried to master it on several occasions, but when I leave her and drive the 200 miles back home she is phoning me with queries that I don’t understand and can’t answer and we are back to square one.
There must be thousands of people like my mum who, without daily help and encouragement to use technology, just can’t get to grips with it. In generations to come I suppose this won’t be a problem as we will all have grown up with it and it will be second nature. But what do we do about the current generation of elderly people whose lives could be transformed if they just knew how to make that mobile phone send and receive things?
This week’s report on the state of ageing in Britain by the Centre for Ageing Better is calling for a radical rethink from Government, businesses and charities to ensure the next generation of older people can experience a good quality of life as they age and make the most of the opportunities presented by longer lives. We need to make sure that the ability to use technology is part of that rethink.
Do you know an older person who is keen to keep touch with family and friends and gain confidence in their computer skills? We run an ‘Understanding Computers’ course at the Bradbury Centre on Wednesday mornings, where one-to-one tuition is provided by a friendly volunteer. A small fee is charged for this activity. If you’d like to know more, contact our team.