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Reducing Later Life Loneliness: A Systematic Literature Review of Loneliness Interventions

Research output: Contribution to conference - Without ISBN/ISSN Conference paper

Published
Publication date07/2018
Original languageEnglish
EventICHAA 2018 - Paris, France
Duration: 19/07/201820/07/2018
Conference number: 18FR07ICHAA
https://waset.org/conference/2018/07/paris/ICHAA

Conference

ConferenceICHAA 2018
CountryFrance
CityParis
Period19/07/1820/07/18
Internet address

Abstract

An analysis of recent demographic trends suggest that a significant reduction in infant and young-age mortality rates in low and middle-income countries, along with a continued increase in the life expectancy of older adults in high-income countries, means that people are living longer, healthier lives as compared to the past. As a result, there a surge in the share of older adults in the overall population composition is imminent. This demographic shift is unparalleled in human history, and means that the challenges that come with managing this change are likely to multiply along with the increase in ageing population. Later life loneliness is one such social issue that is increasing alongside an upward global population trend. As a society, one way that we have responded to this social challenge is through developing non pharmacological interventions such as befriending services, activity clubs, meet-ups, etc. Through a systematic literature review, this paper suggests that currently there is an underrepresentation of radical innovation, and underutilization of digital technologies in developing loneliness interventions for older adults. This paper examines intervention studies that were published in English language, within peer reviewed journals between January 2005 and December 2014 across 4 electronic databases. In addition to academic databases, interventions found in grey literature in the form of websites, blogs, and Twitter. were also included in the overall review. This approach yielded 129 interventions that were included in the study. Using a systematic approach to examining literature minimized the chance of 'cherry-picking' evidence to support any preconceived ideas. A coding strategy based on a pattern analysis approach was devised to be able to compare and contrast the loneliness interventions. Firstly, interventions were categorized on the basis of their objective to identify whether they were preventative, supportive, or remedial in nature. Secondly, depending on their scope, they were categorized as either being one-to-one, community-based, or group based. It was also ascertained whether interventions represented an improvement, an incremental innovation, a major advance or a radical departure, in comparison to the most basic form of a loneliness intervention. Finally, interventions were also assessed on the basis of the extent to which they utilized digital technologies. Individual visualizations representing the four levels of coding were created for each intervention, followed by an aggregated visual to facilitate analysis. To keep the inquiry within scope, and to present a coherent view of the findings, the analysis was primarily concerned the level of innovation, and the use of digital technologies. This analysis highlights a weak but positive correlation between the level of innovation and the use of digital technologies in designing and deploying loneliness interventions, and also emphasizes how certain existing interventions could be tweaked to enable their migration from representing incremental innovation to radical innovation for example. This analysis also points out the value of including grey literature, especially from Twitter, in systematic literature reviews to get a contemporary view of latest work in the area under investigation.