It is well-established in the epidemiological literature that people who engage in meaningful social relationships are healthier, happier, and they also live longer. However, there are many in our society whose circumstances limit such interaction, including vulnerable seniors in receipt of care, who have been prioritized in this proposal. Social isolation is very common in this growing population, largely due to their physical, cognitive and emotional limitations, and alternative strategies are required to overcome its negative health consequences. Social media offers a creative solution to this problem: Ages 2.0 conducts a rigorous social experiment to determine how social media can be used more successfully to foster social participation in elderly residential and community-based care residents and to establish the effect of such participation on personal identity, cognitive ability and well-being.
Our central research question is: can engagement in Easy PC, an innovative platform developed especially for vulnerable older adult populations, improve their mental capacity and well-being?
We assess this by working with 240 older people, in control and intervention groups within Italy (Marche Region) and the UK (South West England), to demonstrate that our findings are generalisable beyond national contexts.
The project is delivered in five stages, covering project development, delivery of the social intervention, data analysis, and general project evaluation and dissemination. The first four months (Phase 1) are devoted to: project start & set-up, refining the comprehensive training package (Easy PC) for vulnerable elderly users; and training carer staff to deliver the social intervention. Phase 2 (months 5-20) is devoted to delivery of Easy PC training to 120 older people receiving care in residential and domiciliary settings and the conduct of assessments with users and a control group of the same size. During the last four months (Phase 3), data collected during the study are analysed and interpreted to address our key research questions and predictions. Monitoring and evaluation activities on the research process and outputs are conducted with the support of the stakeholders involved in the project (Phase 4 – months 1-24). The up-scaling strategy process and follow up activities are aimed at disseminating the action to both immediate stakeholders and a wider audience in the areas involved in the project. The creation of two “Stakeholders’ Groups” (one in each country) serve this goal, while a transnational final conference in Italy and the publication of a final report acts as additional dissemination tools (Phase 5, months 3-24). Overall, the project is designed to maximize opportunities for cross-national comparison of findings.