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Understanding perspectives of older adults on the role of technology in the wider context of their social relationships



Four people sitting together on a couch laughing.

Relationships Australia Victoria regularly partners with other organisations to undertake research into areas that impact our clients, government and the wider community.

In 2016-17, we partnered with Swinburne University to investigate loneliness in older adults in residential aged care and community settings, through the university's Wellbeing Clinic for Older Adults. The project sought to better understand the prevalence of loneliness, and the predictors of loneliness and emotional wellbeing among older adults.  

The project included a collaborative study into the maintenance and initiation of older adults' relationships and use of technology in social relationships.  

We’re pleased to announce that the results of the study were published in September 2022 and can be accessed through Cambridge University Press online. A copy of the abstract is also available below.  


Technological interventions are increasingly popular methods of targeting and preventing loneliness in older adults. Research has identified various factors that influence the willingness and propensity of older adults to integrate technology into their social lives and the ways in which this may enhance their social connectedness. Given prevalence rates and negative outcomes associated with loneliness for this population, further research is warranted to clarify the mechanisms through which technological interventions may decrease loneliness. This study aimed to better understand the perspectives of older adults on the role of technology in their social relationships in later life. Four focus groups were conducted with 27 older adults, aged 65–80 years. Transcripts were analysed using thematic analysis, and results were validated via written participant feedback. Participants reported technology as one of many tools used to maintain their social relationships. Their choice to use technology for social interaction was influenced by their estimation of effort required, likely quality of the interaction, and the privacy and security provided. These factors were the same as those that influenced decisions to use other methods (e.g. face-to-face meetings). Based on the results, we recommend that loneliness interventions should be technology-agnostic and multifaceted, providing a wide range of tools that recognise the technological competencies of older adults and supporting different interaction types to meet the preferences of the individual. 

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