Sentab News & Blog / Tackling Loneliness through Inclusive Technology: a Study

Tackling Loneliness through Inclusive Technology: a Study


The current study researches the possibility of using technology for combatting loneliness in later life. Use of technology can provide a scalable tool for addressing loneliness and social isolation challenges, however as loneliness is especially pertinent in later life, significant portion of the target audience are not using known digital devices such as tablets, smartphones or even computers.

Sentab has developed a social and media platform coupled with service layer that works on a user’s TV set. TV is a device that older adults have endorsed and have lower barrier to use due to this, offering services, entertainment and social engagement over TV helps to reach them remotely and address some of the challenges faced by this audience. The current research is looking specifically into the aspects of loneliness and ways how it could be addressed.

Key Findings of the study are: 

  • different previous studies suggest that about 5% to 15% of seniors over 65 report frequently feeling lonely and an additional 20% to 40% report occasional feelings of loneliness;
  • this is due, in part, to older adults’ growing risk of losing their partner and their peers through death, to the loss of social roles, and to limitations of mobility, all of which diminish their ability to maintain social contacts;
  • more contact with friends will be related to lower levels of loneliness than contact with adult children and other relatives;
  • The social impact and benefits from tackling loneliness are huge – Social Finance considers the likely value of a successful intervention programme could be in the range of £770–£2,040 over the life of an individual. Therefore, new scalable intervention mechanisms, including use of technology, could provide significant savings to healthcare and the society in general;
  • pilot group engaged into the research consisted of 28 older adults from Estonia and UK with different digital proficiency, educational levels and gender. Both, at the beginning of the pilot as well as at the end of it, an UCLA loneliness questionnaire was filled in by the pilot users indicating their subjective feeling of loneliness levels;
  • the study established a positive relation between users using the digital interactive tools for social engagement and the reduction of perceived loneliness levels. In the case of 57% of pilot participants, the UCLA loneliness score reduced either somewhat or significantly by the end of the pilot. In the case of 32%, the score remained the same and for the rest 11% the UCLA score increased. The increase of the UCLA score was directly related to the health problems that the respondents faced during the pilot, and their use of the media device for social activities was therefore low;
  • as a result of the activities in the project, the loneliness level of 5 people (18%) was reduced from Moderate Loneliness to Normal Loneliness levels i.e. below 22 points;
  • the study also confirmed a U-shape in perceived loneliness levels as per age group – it was a common that younger old and older old perceived higher loneliness levels than the middle tier. The study also found that people find it psychologically challenging to admit that they feel lonely;
  • the research also shows clearly that in later life, activation of the target audience is required by a dedicated community manager as due to restricted social networks and required behavioral change the natural adoption of technological systems is not happening on the levels that younger audiences display;
  • however, even with a single community manager hundreds of older adults can be reached and activated , hence using technology in addressing loneliness coupled with human interface presents still a scalable option in combatting loneliness.

Read the full research from here.