1 in 3 over-65s in the UK want to be more socially active

1 in 3 over-65s in the UK want to be more socially active

17 May 2012

Technology Strategy Board highlights the opportunity for innovation to improve later life

  • Over a third of people aged over 65 would like to be more socially active
  • Social confidence increases significantly with age
  • 34 per cent of people aged over 80 consider learning new skills as an important aspect of social life
  • Providing opportunities for older adults to stay connected is key – a fifth of over-65s (21 per cent) say they do not have enough family and friends to stay socially active
  • Campaign from Technology Strategy Board highlights the need for innovation in products, systems and services to create opportunities for older adults to keep in touch with others

The Technology Strategy Board has released a ‘Social Index’[1] of the UK, in terms of age and area, based on how socially active respondents of a poll report their lives to be. The index follows recent research from the Campaign to End Loneliness that revealed how a lack of socialising can be detrimental to the health and quality of life of older adults.[2]

The age index shows a decrease of interaction in later life, yet a common desire to continue to remain socially active with over a third (35 per cent) of people aged over 65 wanting more social interaction than they are able to have.

Having the confidence to socialise increases with age, with only seven per cent of over-65s saying that lack of confidence prevents them from being socially active, compared with nearly a quarter of 18 to 24-year-olds. However, the survey reveals a gap between the desires of older adults and what occurs in reality - nearly seven in 10 (69 per cent) of people aged over 80 did not consider themselves socially active, which included simple activities such as ‘talking to family and friends on the phone’ and ‘being part of a group’.

The findings point towards a clear and significant opportunity for the improvement of products, systems and services to create greater ways and means for older adults to stay as socially active as they want to be. The Technology Strategy Board is urging people of all ages to talk about how we can all stay socially active in later life at www.TomorrowTogether.org.uk as part of a campaign to explore the potential for innovation to help us live the way we want to for longer.

With a fifth of adults aged over 65 citing a lack of family and friends as preventing them from being more social, communities have an important role to play – 52 per cent of over-65s say that ‘knowing about local events’ is key to leading an active social life, the highest of all age groups surveyed. Neighbours also become increasingly important, as 78 per cent of people aged over 80 consider neighbourly chats as being 'socially active' - more than double the percentage of 18 to 24-year-olds (38 per cent).

Jackie Marshall-Cyrus, Lead Specialist on the Technology Strategy Board’s Assisted Living Innovation Platform, said:

“As human beings we are intrinsically social creatures and this doesn’t change as we age chronologically. There is a clear expectation and desire among people of all ages to remain active and keep in touch with people they care about. This is what social and technological innovation is all about. It must work for everyone and not just for some. These results show that we need to talk about new and creative ways of developing exciting products, services and systems for the future.”

Baroness Sally Greengross, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Intergenerational Futures and is Vice Chair of the Group on Dementia and Ageing and Older People, said:

“We are an ageing population and all of us, from school age to senior citizens, must start considering how to make later life in the UK the best it can be. There is a huge opportunity for innovative products and services catered to the needs and wants of older adults – particularly those that help facilitate social interaction. I urge everyone to join the conversation at TomorrowTogether.org.uk”

Based on how socially active respondents believed their lives to be, the Technology Strategy Board has ranked the major cities in accordance to their levels of social interaction. Oxford leads the way as the most socially active for the over-65s with Sheffield bringing up the rear.

LOCAL INITIATIVES / CASE STUDIES

Local initiatives that connect older adults together or offer intergenerational activities are crucial and the application of technology often plays an important role in these. The Technology Strategy Board has found a selection of interesting and exciting projects in the UK. One project trains older adults in social entrepreneurship, helping them create and run their own projects. Another uses social media to connect young professionals in transient communities in North London with older adults in need of support, whether that’s helping them to cook, taking them to a doctor’s appointment or cleaning windows.

Tomorrow Together

The Technology Strategy Board is asking people of all generations to join the conversation at www.tomorrowtogether.org.uk or on Twitter at @TomorrowTogethr and explore how social and technological innovation can create a more independent later life for us all.


[1] Based on an omnibus survey of 2,028 GB adults

 

Last updated on Thursday 17 May 2012 at 10:47

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