THE BLOG

Is Technology Helping Or Hindering Our Contact With Friends And Family?

22/08/2017 14:00 BST | Updated 22/08/2017 14:00 BST

In the last decade, the range of communication channels have flourished.

In particular, social media has grown into a phenomenon and it's now easier than ever before for people to connect and share experiences with each other.

As well as making the world feel like a smaller place, it has enabled individuals and organisations to share ideas and develop faster than previously possible.

Whilst these advances can definitely have a positive impact, it's not been equal for all parts of society.

In particular, the UK's older generation can sometimes find that technology makes communicating more difficult, even with their closest friends and family.

Stannah's latest Silver Census polled the UK's pensioners to understand how much contact they have with their families and how they manage to stay in touch with them.

Sadly, the research revealed that despite a clear willingness to embrace technology, too many pensioners remain isolated.

In fact, one in five pensioners have completely lost touch with at least one member of their immediate family and one in ten only speak with their families once a month or less.

This is despite the fact that almost half of those aged 65+ acknowledge the internet as an important tool for maintaining contact with their families.

We called on The Silver Line, a helpline for millions of older people in the UK, to understand more from their users about the difficulties they face in using technology to communicate.

Leslie aged 90, who calls The Silver Line every day, explained:

"The internet is a mixed blessing. In a curious way it gives you a way to communicate but this can lead to disappointment and a kind of loneliness of its own. With technology becoming more and more popular it also means that people do not call on a landline or talk face-to-face."

Coupled with living alone, which is the case for one in three people aged 65 or over in the UK, it's far too easy for our older generation to become isolated.

Only five per cent of people would choose to live with relatives if they required care, hinting at a worrying fragmentation within UK families.

Nina Gopal, Director of Fundraising for The Silver Line, argues that technology hasn't been universally adopted by all over 65s in the UK.

"There is still a large proportion of over 65s - and among some of the most isolated and vulnerable members of our society - who rely on the phone (or letters) to communicate with the outside world. Most of our callers are over 70 and over half of them speak to no one else.

"The 'stiff upper lip generation' often tell us they don't want to bother their busy children or be a burden. So when the text comes ''R U OK?'' mum or dad just text back a ''Yes''.

"So while we would always encourage older people to use technology to keep in touch with their nearest and dearest when they can - we would also urge their friends and family to make time for a proper chat. It's better to spend 30 minutes on the phone to mum and dad once or twice a week than just text every day."

Personal contact with our friends and family is so important for our health and well-being, old and young alike, that we should all make use of the opportunities that technology brings as well as taking a bit more time to make a call, invite someone over or just pop in.