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.