Twenty years ago, the term “digital divide” was coined to describe the gap between those who had access to the internet, and those who did not. If only things were still so black and white. Now with iPhones, iPads, Alexas, Google Home, AI and a dozen other new technologies, it’s clear the digital divide continues to grow and is exacerbating an epidemic of social isolation and loneliness among older adults.
Research shows that chronic loneliness is as hazardous to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. This is staggering when coupled with the finding that 43% of older adults experience chronic loneliness. Loneliness and social isolation, defined as wanting more of a connection than you currently have, is a hidden killer. The impact of social isolation can’t be overestimated especially when you consider those affected have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and a 64% increased chance of dementia. Diminished health of our older generation puts an enormous burden on the already struggling stability of the healthcare system.
As humans, we need to eat, to sleep, to exercise and to connect with other humans in meaningful ways. According to AARP, nearly three in 10 adults over the age of 40 report feeling socially isolated. This statistic has been called a “public health issue” by Johns Hopkins Professor, Michelle C. Carlson.
What do we do? In order to combat social isolation, we must come together as a society to reengage with one another. While that task may seem daunting, it doesn’t have to be if you start by reconnecting with your family.
I have spent the past 29 years of my life studying aging and trying to understand the problem, which is how can technology play a role in connecting older adults, while also allowing them to live independently at home? It wasn’t until I partnered with GrandPad that I became part of the solution.
GrandPad’s mission is to improve the lives of millions of seniors by reconnecting them to their families, friends and caregivers. In January 2019, we took our mission a step further by partnering with Home Instead Inc., the franchisor for the Home Instead Senior Care network and leading provider of in-home care, to offer innovation that will change the way we’re caring for older adults. Together, we’re combining in-home care with technology to provide a high-tech, high-touch solution that will elevate the experience of aging.
The partnership provides a platform for Home Instead franchise owners to offer integrated care solutions that will enhance the client experience while a Home Instead CAREGiver℠ is in the home. Together with Home Instead, we share in the privilege and responsibility to keep seniors connected to their friends and family, while minimizing the stress of being family caregivers.
Digital doesn’t have to divide us; it has the awesome power to connect us. If thoughtfully designed and engineered, technology has the opportunity to combat loneliness and social isolation. It’s already changing the world, so why not use that change for good?
Stria sponsors GrandPad and Home Instead made “The Role of Technology in Social Isolation” special editorial series possible.