Creating Connections Across Generations

Apps, video conferencing, and virtual reality: How older adults use technology to reduce social isolation

Technology, when wielded correctly, can cross the boundaries that separate us– including physical distance and dimensions of reality. Technology stepped up when the world locked down in Spring 2020 to transition school and some jobs to remote settings. It also helped us stay connected in an isolated world– connecting grandparents to grandkids for storytime and friends for trivia night. 

Technology can be a bridge for those who are socially and/or geographically isolated to connect with the rest of the world. To implement the tools of technology most responsibly, we can turn to the example that many older adults are setting. A recent Washington Post article shares the various ways that older adults are utilizing technology to form new connections and strengthen their existing ties. 

One example is the online platform Papa which connects older adults with “family on demand.” Together, users do things like go for walks and run errands in real life. There’s also Eldera, a platform that pairs vetted adults 60 and older to mentor children around the world via video conferencing.

Dapper gentleman using a VR set
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Older adults are also using virtual reality (VR), a tool that takes the 2-D experience of a video call to the next level. Just imagine sitting in your living room to travel the world with peers, and playing games in beautiful settings with new friends. Families who live apart or can’t see one another can also meet in ordinary settings like their front porches or living rooms, or go fishing on the pond they’ve added to their virtual backyard.

VR and augmented reality (AR) designers are even addressing the flaws of video platforms that create fatigue and disconnect in users, according to Stanford Professor Jeremy Balienson in his recent publication. This way, rather than being drained by these experiences, we feel energized and connected– which is always the goal we have in mind here at LinkAGES.

LinkAGES member Senior Planet from AARP’s very mission is to connect people through technology to online fitness classes, social events and finance events, and events hosted in both Spanish and Chinese. And when the world went on lockdown, LinkAGES members who were able to transition to remote and/or hybrid formats quickly adapted. These programs included Shalom Park’s music therapy program, Photography and Memory, and the Denver Public Libary’s program Unboxed. Learn more about these programs on our Highlights page or watch the below short film LinkAGES: Resilience in 2020. 

We also acknowledge that not everyone has access to technology. As we develop toolkits to help organizations, agencies, and community-led initiatives adapt our most successful programs, we offer guidance on three formats: in-person, hybrid, and remote. Because when it is available, technology can and should connect those who are isolated.

The Washington Post article published in December 2021 goes into detail, and we encourage you to read it and share it with friends!