Building Social Connections: A Framework for Enriching Older Adults’ Social Connectedness Through Information and Communication Technologies
Aged care providers and researchers are increasingly exploring the use of communication technologies to help older people remain connected to the world as they age. These initiatives often aim to counteract the negative effects of social isolation, thereby aiming to compensate for deficiencies associated with old age, rather than aiming to build on and enrich the social connections that people find valuable in later life. In this chapter, we present a framework that aims to inform the design of technologies for enriching older people’s social lives. Drawing on research from the field of social gerontology that provides insight into the multiple ways older adults experience social connection and isolation, the framework describes three interrelated dimensions that characterise the experience of social connection in later life: (i) personal relationships, (ii) community connections, and (iii) societal engagement. A person may experience inadequacies in one or more of these dimensions, to varying degrees and intensity. However, enrichment in one dimension could potentially compensate for a sense of disconnection in other dimensions. We argue that this conceptualisation of social connection in later life is useful for informing the design of technology-based interventions. We illustrate how information and communication technologies (ICTs) can be designed and used to enrich the three different kinds of social connections by drawing on examples from the human–computer interaction literature that have demonstrated the value of new technologies for enriching different dimensions of social connectedness in later life.
KeywordsSocial connectedness Social isolation Communication technology Older adults
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