This national conference jointly hosted by the School of Applied Social Studies, University College Cork and Respond! Housing Association took place on 10th November 2017 at Johns College, Waterford
“Responding to Social Isolation through Technology” heard from a range of experts and practitioners on methods to deal with loneliness and examined innovative responses to one of the major social issues of the digital age.
Loneliness and the social isolation associated with it has been described as one of the most significant challenges for contemporary societies and poses profound implications for the well- being of individuals, communities and humanity at large.
This half day conference is essentially a follow on to the highly successful “Responding to Isolation & Loneliness: Housing and Community Perspectives” conference which took place in November 2015 at the same venue.
Many of the effects of loneliness and isolation have been captured in quality of life indicators and impacts people regardless of age, gender, income or ethnicity. Responding effectively to social isolation and loneliness poses challenges for governments, policy makers, service providers, NGOs, communities, households and families. Effective responses makes good sense not only in social terms by addressing quality of life issues, but also financially by alleviating pressure and demand for services as people remain healthy and supported in their own homes in their own communities.
A problem of the contemporary age necessitates a response which takes account of the realities of a complex world where communication between people is increasingly technology based, is often instantaneous and is global in reach. While communications technology brings undoubted challenges and barriers such as cost, acquisition of digital skills, availability and accessibility and the risk of deepening individualisation, it can also be harnessed to innovate for new modes of interaction and social engagement between people and communities. Respond Housing and the School of Applied Social Studies, University College Cork together have been reflecting on the issue of loneliness and isolation as social housing landlord and community engaged social researchers respectively and this conference presents a range of perspectives and case studies on how such themes can be examined, understood, and responded to in a digital age.
Opening the conference Minister of State for Training, Skills and Innovation Mr. John Halligan T.D., highlighted that responding effectively to social isolation and loneliness poses challenges for governments, policy makers, service providers, our communities, and families. We need effective responses across a broad range of areas, which will address not alone the quality of life issues, but also financial issues whereby people can be supported in their own homes and in their own communities.
“Loneliness is a killer. This is no exaggeration. A 2010 review of over 140 studies found that the influence of social isolation on early mortality is comparable to well-established risk factors such as smoking and has a greater impact than factors such as obesity and physical obesity.
“We have to ensure our older relatives and friends do not become even more isolated in this new information age and in fact, learn to use and be comfortable with new technology which will enable them to stay in touch with their families and be involved in the national conversation. We in Respond commit use the learnings from today’s conference to start the journey to ensure our cohort of older residents have the skills and technology available to them to stay connected to the wider world.”
According to Professor Cathal O’Connell of the School of Applied Social Studies of University College Cork “this is an issue faced by many societies and its effects have been captured in a range of quality of life indicators across age, gender, income and ethnicity. While communications technology brings undoubted challenges and barriers, it can also be harnessed to innovate for new modes of interaction and social engagement between people and communities”, he said.
*2010 review of 140 studies on social isolation and loneliness: Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. and Layton, J. (2010) ‘Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review’, PLoS Med, 7(7).
Photos by Noel Browne
Posted: February 2017