Older Adults’ Loneliness, Social Isolation, and Physical Information and Communication Technology in the Era of Ambient Assisted Living: A Systematic Literature Review

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Abstract

Background: Loneliness and social isolation can have severe effects on human health and well-being. Partial solutions to combat these circumstances in demographically aging societies have been sought from the field of information and communication technology (ICT).

Objective: This systematic literature review investigates the research conducted on older adults’ loneliness and social isolation, and physical ICTs, namely robots, wearables, and smart homes, in the era of ambient assisted living (AAL). The aim is to gain insight into how technology can help overcome loneliness and social isolation other than by fostering social communication with people and what the main open-ended challenges according to the reviewed studies are.

Methods: The data were collected from 7 bibliographic databases. A preliminary search resulted in 1271 entries that were screened based on predefined inclusion criteria. The characteristics of the selected studies were coded, and the results were summarized to answer our research questions.

Results: The final data set consisted of 23 empirical studies. We found out that ICT solutions such as smart homes can help detect and predict loneliness and social isolation, and technologies such as robotic pets and some other social robots can help alleviate loneliness to some extent. The main open-ended challenges across studies relate to the need for more robust study samples and study designs. Further, the reviewed studies report technology- and topic-specific open-ended challenges.

Conclusions: Technology can help assess older adults’ loneliness and social isolation, and alleviate loneliness without direct interaction with other people. The results are highly relevant in the COVID-19 era, where various social restrictions have been introduced all over the world, and the amount of research literature in this regard has increased recently.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere28022
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Volume23
Issue number12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Dec 2021
Publication typeA2 Review article in a scientific journal

Keywords

  • Loneliness
  • Social Isolation
  • Older adults
  • Physical Information and Communication Technology
  • Systematic Literature Review

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2

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