What is social isolation? Social isolation is a state a lack of contact between an individual and society. It differs from loneliness, which reflects a temporary lack of contact with other humans
Social Isolation and loneliness has a far greater negative impact effects in the lives of elders, it not only affects their mental well-being but has serious repercussions on their overall health and – physical wellbeing. There is a far more likelihood in increase depression, dementia, social anxiety, and low self-esteem. Research indicates that various technological based interventions have been carried out that are known to reduce the stress and loneliness amongst the elder population.
While technology in itself is good and progressive, it also has an adverse effect in the lives of the elders, as they are unable to cope up with its fast changing pace, which is far easier for the younger generation, and therefore feel isolated and alone. It is also seen that due to the increase in technology and the easy availability of smartphones and internet, the importance of conversation and quality time has been lost. Most often grandparents complain of loneliness and incompetency because they children and grandchildren are too busy with their phones or playing digital games or on their laptops. They have no one to talk to and due to their restrictive mobility and health issues most of these elders remain confined to the house and therefore have no social life .To tackle this increasing generation gap between the young and the old, it is important to bridge this technology gap and empower our elders. It is also very important to sensitize the younger generation towards elder needs and urge them to spend quality time with elders at home.
Where senior citizens are concerned, digital inclusion can be a complicated issue. It’s no secret that age correlates strongly with technology adoption. Yet the widely acclaimed belief that many seniors cannot learn or acquire the use of technology is false. There is no age for learning. Evidence shows that older adults readily adopt and learn new mainstream technologies when a device or service is demonstrated, practical knowledge works best and learnings from it have immediate relevance to a senior’s important life goals. They re-connect with the world outside and younger family members and friends are more updated on worldly affairs and feel more involved with life itself. This significantly improves their mental well-being and in turns their overall health.
Health outcomes of seniors are affected not just by bio-medical issues but also by psychological factors. Social isolation and loneliness are among risk factors that have negative effects on a senior’s health.
Seniors who have lost their partners and are survived by few family members and friends, elders that stay alone or are alienated by their immediate family, have limited or no contact with others and therefore at a higher risk of facing problems related to mental and health issues. Since social isolation and loneliness is a common problem amongst the elder population, therefore this is a serious issue and need to be talked about; especially the reason why this exists in the first place. The reason for isolation and seclusion can be due to many reason, the most common being poor cognitive functioning, -, sleep disorders, physical limitation and impaired mental health.
Information and communication technology intends to alleviate the problem of isolation and loneliness and is significant in combating social isolation and successful in sustaining and expanding social contact and improving emotional wellbeing. Seniors learn best when they learn with a purpose — not just learning technology for technology’s sake.
Connecting on social media with others is helpful especially if the elders are dealing with chronic conditions. Social media helps in connecting with other people who might be facing similar problems and struggles and does not make the elders feel alone. Being able to hear others experiences and stories and connecting with them, gives a sense of hope and comfort to these elders. There are numerous areas online that offer connection and communication, such as online support groups, forums, and social media. And being able to stay in touch with close family and friends who live far away through Skype or email, can have a significant impact on many older adults’ emotional well-being. Access to online health and medical resources, is equally empowering for older adults and caregivers alike. Apps for medication management and health monitoring are great advancements for home healthcare.
The Government of India has acknowledged Digital Literacy as an influential instrument to address various issues. With the introduction of computerization and digitization, there is now a need for all out Digital Literacy program for senior citizens. There are some NGOs and charities working for elders who are focusing on Digital Literacy for elders with the aim of empowering them to life with dignity and self-reliance. The younger generation is urged to spend more time with elders and also help them with the challenges they face with the current technology, whether it be learning how to use a smart phone, or sending an email, online transactions or simply how to use Skype, for what they learn, will go a long way in improving their quality of life.