Social isolation and loneliness, are big national issues. Red Cross research from this year calculated that over nine million people in the UK – more than the population of London – report that they are always or often lonely.
While loneliness is not the preserve of older generations, feelings of social isolation can be greatly exacerbated by deteriorating health, immobility, sensory impairment, separation from family and major life events such as loss of a spouse.
Unfortunately, it’s a vicious cycle, as social isolation often manifests itself in the reduction of physical and mental health and additional pressure on health services, as highlighted by the Social Care Institute for Excellence report.
Housing providers are often at the frontline of this issue when older people are forced to leave family homes and communities for housing more suitable to their needs – an upheaval that can exacerbate social isolation. And so, they are also in a unique position to help.
The good news for housing providers is that there are now proven digital technologies available, developed specifically to tackle this issue.
For instance, you can adopt a suite of digital services that integrate both safety and wellbeing technologies into resident homes.
From our experience, we have found that social isolation is more prevalent when mobility problems lead to a lack of face-to-face contact.
As a result, it is important to look for technology that delivers all the functionality associated with traditional monitoring such as pendant calls for assistance and door answering; but also crucially enables residents to make room2room video calls across their development for free.
For those already utilising the technology, we have seen positive impact on residents, as one resident recently told us; “I struggle to get up the stairs to see my friend and I’m hard of hearing, but now I can just video call her to check she is ok and arrange to meet up”.
This is echoed by a comment from a housing manager; “When we are having a cup of tea in the communal lounge, we video call everyone’s apartments, it’s great to see so many new faces join us’.
While these might seem small steps towards better engagement, you can’t underestimate the difference this makes for older people struggling with feelings of social isolation.
In the future – smart devices in particular – which support mobility, social inclusion and independence, will become as indispensable as inbuilt appliances are today.
Housing providers who embrace this technology are primed to be at the forefront of a move to make sure multiple generations of older people can live happy, healthy, engaged and independent lives for as long as possible.
Appello’s LivingHub, a multifunctional safety and wellbeing hub for older and vulnerable people, has been declared a finalist for Innovation of the Year at the 2017 24 Housing Awards.