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      Evaluation of an Intergenerational and Technological Intervention for Loneliness: Protocol for a Feasibility Randomized Controlled Trial


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          Social integration and mental health are vital aspects of healthy aging. However, close to half of Canadians older than 80 years report feeling socially isolated. Research has shown that social isolation leads to increased mortality and morbidity, and various interventions have been studied to alleviate loneliness among older adults. This proposal presents an evaluation of an intervention that provides one-on-one coaching, is intergenerational, provides both educational and socialization experiences, and increases technology literacy of older adults to overcome loneliness.


          This paper describes the protocol of a randomized, mixed-methods study that will take place in Ontario, Canada. The purpose of this study is to evaluate if an intergenerational technology literacy program can reduce social isolation and depression in older adults via quantitative and qualitative outcome measures.


          This study is a randomized, mixed-methods, feasibility trial with 2 conditions. Older adults in the intervention condition will receive 1 hour of weekly technological assistance to send an email to a family member, for 8 weeks, with the assistance of a volunteer. Participants in the control condition will not receive any intervention. The primary outcomes are loneliness, measured using the University of California, Los Angeles Loneliness Scale, and depression, measured using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale, both of which are measured weekly. Secondary outcomes are quality of life, as assessed using the Older People’s Quality of Life-Brief version, and technological literacy, evaluated using the Computer Proficiency Questionnaire-12, both of which will be administered before and after the intervention. Semistructured interviews will be completed before and after the intervention to assess participants’ social connectedness, familiarity with technology, and their experience with the intervention. The study will be completed in a long-term care facility in Southwestern Ontario, Canada. Significance was set at P<.05.


          This study was funded in April 2019 and ethical approval was obtained in August 2019. Recruitment for the study started in November 2019. The intervention began in February 2020 but was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The trial will be restarted when safe. As of March 2020, 8 participants were recruited.


          Information and communication technology interventions have shown varying results in reducing loneliness and improving mental health among older adults. Few studies have examined the role of one-on-one coaching for older adults in addition to technology education in such interventions. Data from this study may have the potential to provide evidence for other groups to disseminate similar interventions in their respective communities.

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          Most cited references57

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          UCLA Loneliness Scale (Version 3): reliability, validity, and factor structure.

          D. Russell (1996)
          In this article I evaluated the psychometric properties of the UCLA Loneliness Scale (Version 3). Using data from prior studies of college students, nurses, teachers, and the elderly, analyses of the reliability, validity, and factor structure of this new version of the UCLA Loneliness Scale were conducted. Results indicated that the measure was highly reliable, both in terms of internal consistency (coefficient alpha ranging from .89 to .94) and test-retest reliability over a 1-year period (r = .73). Convergent validity for the scale was indicated by significant correlations with other measures of loneliness. Construct validity was supported by significant relations with measures of the adequacy of the individual's interpersonal relationships, and by correlations between loneliness and measures of health and well-being. Confirmatory factor analyses indicated that a model incorporating a global bipolar loneliness factor along with two method factor reflecting direction of item wording provided a very good fit to the data across samples. Implications of these results for future measurement research on loneliness are discussed.
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            Achieving integration in mixed methods designs-principles and practices.

            Mixed methods research offers powerful tools for investigating complex processes and systems in health and health care. This article describes integration principles and practices at three levels in mixed methods research and provides illustrative examples. Integration at the study design level occurs through three basic mixed method designs-exploratory sequential, explanatory sequential, and convergent-and through four advanced frameworks-multistage, intervention, case study, and participatory. Integration at the methods level occurs through four approaches. In connecting, one database links to the other through sampling. With building, one database informs the data collection approach of the other. When merging, the two databases are brought together for analysis. With embedding, data collection and analysis link at multiple points. Integration at the interpretation and reporting level occurs through narrative, data transformation, and joint display. The fit of integration describes the extent the qualitative and quantitative findings cohere. Understanding these principles and practices of integration can help health services researchers leverage the strengths of mixed methods. © Health Research and Educational Trust.
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              Loneliness as a specific risk factor for depressive symptoms: cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses.

              The extent to which loneliness is a unique risk factor for depressive symptoms was determined in 2 population-based studies of middle-aged to older adults, and the possible causal influences between loneliness and depressive symptoms were examined longitudinally in the 2nd study. In Study 1, a nationally representative sample of persons aged 54 and older completed a telephone interview as part of a study of health and aging. Higher levels of loneliness were associated with more depressive symptoms, net of the effects of age, gender, ethnicity, education, income, marital status, social support, and perceived stress. In Study 2, detailed measures of loneliness, social support, perceived stress, hostility, and demographic characteristics were collected over a 3-year period from a population-based sample of adults ages 50-67 years from Cook County, Illinois. Loneliness was again associated with more depressive symptoms, net of demographic covariates, marital status, social support, hostility, and perceived stress. Latent variable growth models revealed reciprocal influences over time between loneliness and depressive symptomatology. These data suggest that loneliness and depressive symptomatology can act in a synergistic effect to diminish well-being in middle-aged and older adults. ((c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

                Author and article information

                JMIR Res Protoc
                JMIR Res Protoc
                JMIR Research Protocols
                JMIR Publications (Toronto, Canada )
                February 2021
                17 February 2021
                : 10
                : 2
                : e23767
                [1 ] Department of Medicine Cumming School of Medicine University of Calgary Calgary, AB Canada
                [2 ] enTECH Computer Club University of Waterloo Waterloo, ON Canada
                [3 ] School of Pharmacy University of Waterloo Waterloo, ON Canada
                [4 ] Michael G DeGroote School of Medicine McMaster University Hamilton, ON Canada
                [5 ] Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies University of Waterloo Waterloo, ON Canada
                [6 ] Department of Psychology University of Waterloo Waterloo, ON Canada
                Author notes
                Corresponding Author: Colin Whaley colin.whaley@ 123456uwaterloo.ca
                Author information
                ©Peter Hoang, Colin Whaley, Karen Thompson, Venus Ho, Uzma Rehman, Karla Boluk, Kelly A Grindrod. Originally published in JMIR Research Protocols (http://www.researchprotocols.org), 17.02.2021.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in JMIR Research Protocols, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on http://www.researchprotocols.org, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.

                : 22 August 2020
                : 7 October 2020
                : 2 December 2020
                : 19 January 2021

                seniors,communication technology,social isolation,computers,intergenerational,older adults,mobile phone


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