Get Connected

With one in five people over the age of 65 in the UK feeling lonely, Christine Maclean from Attigo explores the issue and asks if digital connection is the cure.

It can be hard to admit feelings of loneliness, but according to the Campaign to End Loneliness, one in five people aged 60 and over feel they have no one to turn to.

Loneliness can lead to a lack of confidence, depression, stress and anxiety. The most common causes for feelings of isolation amongst the older generation are usually poor health, bereavement, mobility restrictions, and feeling cut off from friends and the community.

Social changes, such as fragmented family life, offers an explanation for the increasing statistics surrounding loneliness in the UK. In the last 50 years social and family networks have grown smaller and more diffused. People no longer live close to their parents due to travel and work opportunities. Longer working hours combined with family commitments, means that children are simply too busy and too far away to visit their parents regularly.

So Many Positives Teaching the older generation the essential skills needed to use the internet can help relatives to stay better connected while they’re on the move, helping to combat loneliness. Research supports this, with 52% of people over 55 using the internet to keep in touch with family

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and friends, and 72% of those online feeling less isolated as a result.

Being online later in life allows people to reconnect with old friends and family via Facebook and video calling applications such as Skype. It can also bring people together with similar interests, through networks like Streetlife, which allows neighbours to discuss local issues and organise group activities such as walks, dancing or knitting classes. The internet can also help those with mobility issues to use everyday services online, such as internet banking or grocery shopping.

The Unknown However despite this, 10.5 million adults in the UK still lack basic digital skills and unlike the majority of teenagers, older adults haven’t grown up in the technological age. They don’t rely on digital devices like laptops and iPhones, so they lack familiarity and confidence with technology.

Overcoming the fear of being online is the first hurdle for a lot of older people to make. However, even once the decision to learn basic computer skills has been made, most training services on the market offer online courses, or one-off face-to-face sessions without continued support. While this may work for those with some basic skills, it doesn’t work for most beginners. Training aimed at this demographic

needs to include face-to-face interaction from which a relationship can be built upon to guide them through the course at their own pace.

Face-To-Face Training At ATTIGO we have designed a supportive training service specifically for older adults who struggle with IT literacy and want to gain computer confidence. As a result, we have created a unique learning experience which combines workshop training with our tested and trusted in-house e-Learning portal created for older learners.

Each learner has their own training mentor, allowing individuals to receive support whenever necessary.

Of course, offering teaching aimed specifically at a growing population of older people only addresses part of the problem. Action needs to be taken by local communities too, working together to support those who are experiencing or are at risk of experiencing loneliness. Whether this is through 13-25 year olds helping the over 55’s to keep up to speed with new technology, community halls and day centres offering social events such as afternoon tea, or even helping a parent get online; we all have a social responsibility to help put an end to loneliness.

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