Loneliness: Ten ways tech helps you stay connected

Technology can help to reduce loneliness and social isolation. Here are some tips for older and disabled people, or those in a period of forced isolation

A group of people sitting around with laptopsPeople can feel lonely and isolated for a number of reasons. Scope found that half of working age disabled people “always or often” feel lonely while the number of over 50s experiencing loneliness is set to reach 2m by 2025/26. 

Age UK says there are already 1.2 million chronically lonely people living in the UK, and as we have witnessed recently a prolonged illness can cause isolation.

Technology can help all people to connect. Here are some tips. 

1. Invest in a Smart Speaker

Smart speakers such as Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa are powerful tools. These voice-activated devices act as a bridge to the fountain of knowledge on the internet. 

Practically, it can help you to stay more organised, or access news, podcasts and books.

The voice interface means for those who might be socially isolated they get to hear their voice in the room, and to get a response creating a sense of dialogue.

2. Listen to the radio

Historically, the radio has provided a source of company for those without it. You can access it via a smart speaker. On a tablet, phone or computer there are various of ways of tapping into radio stations free of charge. TuneIn is a great radio app, that provides easy access to a plethora of radio stations including music, talk radio and regional shows. 

You’ll also find many radio stations have an option on their websites to ‘Listen Live’.

You can also stream music and access podcasts for free via Spotify. The free version comes with ads or you can subscribe to an ad-free service.

3. Listen to a podcast

There are literally millions of podcasts available to list to, and many are available free of charge. Find out how to access free podcasts and books in our celebration of World Book Day.

4. Book a Home Visit from AbilityNet

Our network of DBS-checked volunteers can visit you for FREE in your home and advise you on all aspects of technology, including setting up a smart speaker or getting you connected to the internet. 

They can also help to adapt the technology you use if you’re older or disabled.

Book a FREE home visit from an AbilityNet volunteer.

5. Join an online community 

Hands all joined together in an act of celebrationThe internet gets a bad rap sometimes that it isolates and excludes people but it can also help you to forge new social connections, and to connect physically with others. For those experiencing disability or illness, charities are a good first port of call. 

Recently, we’ve highlighted forums to connect with if you or a loved one are living with MS, are a stroke survivor and for those with arthritis. Scope also has forums for “disabled people, parents and carers”.

Many, notably the stroke association, will signpost to local groups you can join. 

For older people, Age UK has local forums to help you connect with others.

6. Do some volunteering

Giving something back, if you’re able is a way of connecting with others. Opportunities can be small, or larger if you wish. 

You can volunteer with AbilityNet offering FREE tech support at home.

The app Be My Eyes allows you to help others with visual impairments. The app connects blind and low-vision individuals with sighted volunteers and companies from all over the world through a live video call.

More than 2,000,000 volunteers have signed up to assist blind and low-vision users. It is a great way for micro-volunteering, if you’re short of time.

You can also find a volunteering activity at a time that suits you using Do It

7. Keep an eye on loved ones

There are easy ways of monitoring the people you love in a way that’s non-intrusive. Howz, for example, offers a Home Care Kit. 

The kit is a series of smart plug and sensors that learn a person’s natural routine such as what time they get up, how much energy they consume.

When there’s an anomaly it texts someone. The initial kits costs £149 plus £9 per month after the first 30-days.

 

8. Make a video call

Technology makes it easy to connect face-to-face when you’re physically separated.

The company No Isolation manufactures KOMP. KOMP is a one-button computer aimed at those who have little or no experience of using smartphones, computers and tablets. It enables families to connect through an app and to send messages, pictures and make two-way video calls. 

For those who do use smartphones and tablets it’s easy to connect via Skype or to make a video-call using apps such as WhatsApp. 

Our friendly team of DBS-checked volunteers will visit you for FREE at home and help you to set up video calls, or do anything else tech related.

9. Free technology to combat loneliness

The charity Wavelength gives technology to people who are lonely or living in poverty to help them to reconnect with the world. It supports people who are unwell, disabled people, people who have suffered domestic abuse, the homeless, and more. 

You can apply for help as an individual or a group.

 

10. Robo-companions

In the not-too distant future, we may find there are robots who can care for us or provide companionship at home. You can read about the types of robots caring for people in Japan and closer to home

How AbilityNet can help?

AbilityNet provides a range of free services to help disabled people and older people.

  • Call our free Helpline. Our friendly, knowledgeable staff will discuss any kind of computer problem and do their best to come up with a solution. We’re open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm on 0800 269 545.
  • Arrange a home visit. We have a network of AbilityNet ITCanHelp volunteers who can help if you have technical issues with your computer systems. They can come to your home, or help you over the phone.
  • We have a range of factsheets that talk in detail about technology that might help you, which can be downloaded for free. You may find our factsheets about voice recognition and keyboard alternatives useful.
  • My Computer My Way. A free interactive guide to all the accessibility features built into current desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones.