To examine the effectiveness of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in reducing social isolation in older people and draw recommendations from previous literature appropriate for informing ICT use in future mandated periods of isolation.
A systematically conducted review of key databases to identify studies investigating ICT interventions that targeted social isolation or loneliness among older people.
Fifteen articles were identified. All articles used ICT as an intervention for targeting social isolation with varying results. Most studies reported positive impacts on social isolation, but this was identified more in self-reporting compared to changes in baseline measures. The types of ICT used included videoconferencing, Internet-based applications and purpose-designed applications. A number of factors were also identified throughout the studies that impacted uptake that should be considered when implementing ICT.
Overall, we found evidence of ICT improving social connectedness of older people to some extent although more rigorous research in future is needed. Recommendations from previous literature highlight the importance of including older people in purposeful design, engaging families and support networks, and providing ongoing ICT training and support so that systems and skills are in place for future periods of mandated isolation. The literature also warns us not to rely on ICT as the only avenue for social interaction either during or outside periods of social distancing.