This article was written by one of our contributing authors. You can learn more about them below.
In June 2019, the UK’s oldest loneliness charity, WaveLength, released their new report with the University of York. Their report, ‘Everyday technology fighting loneliness’ shows that people felt less lonely after receiving a radio, television, or tablet. People also rated their health more positively after using their new piece of technology. The charity collected information from over 180 people, who were on average 44 years old, over a period of 2 years. Over 50% had been homeless and experienced poor mental health.
Commentary on the relationship between technology and loneliness can often be negative in tone, despite there being little rigorous academic research. WaveLength’s report shows how technology can positively impact those who are lonely, which can be especially true for people who are in a bad financial situation and experience poor physical and mental health. Everyday technology which many of us take for granted can reduce people’s loneliness levels and leave a lasting impact on their lives.
WaveLength is celebrating its 80th Birthday this year. Alongside supporting on an individual basis, the charity works with organisations including women’s refuges, homeless hostels, day-care centres, hospital wards, and care homes. In 2018 alone, 12,700 people benefited from the charity’s work.
Clare, who is living in Kilburn, recently received a television from WaveLength after she left prison. Experiencing several health issues and disabilities means that she is now often housebound. Commenting on the difference her television has made, she explained:
“I have found the TV to be invaluable as it is a real companion to me when I am bedbound and stops me from feeling lonely. I really enjoy tuning into my favourite programmes for entertainment and learning. The TV has made such a positive difference to my life.”
Alongside processing individual applications, the charity also gives technology to organisations. One initiative WaveLength has helped is the Home for Good Club, run by the homeless charity, The Passage. The club helps previously-homeless people transition to independent living. Using tablets given by WaveLength during the club, one client reflected:
“When I first came to the Home for Good Club, I was living like a hermit. I hardly spoke to anyone. Conor gave me a tablet to use and this gave me access back to the “real world” and the opportunity to talk to, and make, friends. Without the tablet I would probably still be suffering from severe depression.”
WaveLength’s report calls for more attention to be given to the benefits everyday technology can bring to some of the loneliest people. Not everyone can afford to buy the everyday technology which many of us take for granted. It is just as important for funding to cover the purchase of equipment, alongside training. The report calls for free access to a minimum standard of broadband in order to connect greater numbers of people via smart televisions and tablet computers as well.
To read the report, and to learn more about WaveLength, visit https://wavelength.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/WaveLength-Everyday-technology-fighting-loneliness.pdf