Growing old and staying connected

Touch screen technology for ameliorating older people’s experience of social isolation.

Project overview

An elderly man uisng a tablet computer

Social isolation is experienced when people have limited contact with others. It affects many older people and is associated with a range of physical and mental health problems. It is, therefore, a significant health concern, particularly for an ageing population.

This project investigates the use of novel technologies to prevent and to ameliorate social isolation experienced by older adults.

Building on a pilot project funded by the Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society (IBES), this project uses a uniquely designed photo and message sharing iPad application in a longitudinal field study with a group of older people who are, or are at risk of being, socially isolated.

The project is funded by the ARC linkage scheme in partnership with Benetas and IBES.

Research team

This is a multidisciplinary project, involving researchers working in the fields of human-computer interaction, computer science, social work, and aged care policies and practice.The project team comprises:

  • Frank Vetere, Lars Kulik, and Jenny Waycott from the Department of Computing and Information Systems, The University of Melbourne.
  • Elizabeth Ozanne from the Department of Social Work, The University of Melbourne.
  • Sonja Pedell from the Faculty of Design, Swinburne University of Technology.
  • Alan Gruner, research and development manager at Benetas.
  • Brendan Lillywhite, aged care consultant and director of Alliance Perpetual.

Publications and presentations

  • Waycott, J., Vetere, F., Pedell, S., Morgans, A., Ozanne, E., Kulik, L. (2016). Not for Me: Older Adults Choosing Not to Participate in a Social Isolation Intervention. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2016). ACM Press. (pp. 745-757).
  • Waycott, J., Morgans, A., Pedell, S., Ozanne, E., Vetere, F., Kulik, L., & Davis, H. (2015). Ethics in evaluating a sociotechnical intervention with socially isolated older adults. Qualitative Health Research, 25(11), 1518-1528. doi: 10.1177/1049732315570136
  • Waycott, J., (2015). Connecting online can help prevent social isolation in older people. The Conversation, November 19th 2015, Connecting online can help prevent social isolation in older people
  • Waycott, J., Davis, H., Vetere, F., Morgans, A., Gruner, A., Ozanne, E., & Kulik, L. (2014). Captioned photographs in psychosocial aged care: Relationship building and boundary work. In Proceedings of the 28th International Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2014), ACM Press.
  • Davis, H., Vetere, F., Waycott, J., Ozanne, E., Morgans, A., & Kulik, L. (2014). The empathy of a champion user. In: CHI 2014 Workshop on Enabling Empathy in Health and Care: Design Methods and Challenges.
  • Waycott, J., Vetere, F., Pedell, S. (2013). Designing communication technologies for socially isolated older people: Fieldwork reflections. Paper accepted for inclusion in CHI 2013 Workshop on Designing for – and with – Vulnerable People. ACM Press.
  • Waycott, J., Vetere, F., Pedell, S., Kulik, L, Ozanne, E., Gruner, A., & Downs, J. (2013). Older adults as digital content producers. Paper to appear in Proceedings of the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2013). ACM Press.
  • Vetere, F. (2013). Older adults as digital content producers. Paper presented at M-Enabling Australasia: Conference of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) (Sydney, 14th-15th August, 2013).
  • Ozanne, E. (2013). Growing older and staying connected. Paper presented at the International Federation of Ageing Conference (Istanbul, 4th October, 2013).
  • Waycott, J., Pedell, S., Vetere, F., Ozanne, E., Kulik, L., Gruner, A., & Downs, J. (2012). Actively engaging older adults in the development and evaluation of tablet technology. In Proceedings of the Australian Computer-Human Interaction Conference (OzCHI 2012). ACM Press (pp. 643 - 652). Melbourne, Australia.
  • Gruner, A., Kulik, L., Lillywhite, B., Ozanne, E., Pedell, S., Vetere, F. and Waycott, J. (2012) Mobile Communication Technologies for Ameliorating Older People’s Experience of Social Isolation, Presented at the Australasian Association of Gerontology Conference (Brisbane, 20th - 23rd November)
  • Gruner, A., Kulik, L., Lillywhite, B., Ozanne, E., Pedell, S., Vetere, F. and Waycott, J. (2012) The Use of Technologies to Reduce Social Isolation in Older People, Presented at the Anglicare Australia Conference 2012 (Hobart, 16th - 19th September)
  • Pedell, S., Vetere, F., Kulik, L., Ozanne, E., & Gruner, A. (2010). Social isolation of older people: the role of domestic technologies. In M. Brereton, S. Viller, & B. Kraal (Eds). OZCHI ‘10: Proceedings of the 22nd Conference of the Computer-Human Interaction Special Interest Group of Australia on Computer-Human Interaction (pp. 164-167). Brisbane, Australia.
  • IBES report (2012). Mobile and broadband technologies for ameliorating social isolation in older people.
  • Gruner, A. (2012). Using technology to stay connected. In LASA Voice, Issue 1 (2012 Winter Edition).

Media reports

Contact details