Friends or frenemies? The role of social technology in the lives of older people

T. ten Bruggencate*, K.G. Luijkx, J. Sturm

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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By having a healthy and happy social life, social needs are fulfilled. When social needs are not fulfilled, loneliness and social isolation can occur, which have negative consequences for one’s physical and mental health. Social technology, technology that enables social interaction, can be a resource to fulfil the social needs of older people. In this study, we aimed to learn what role social technology plays in the social life of older people. We held 15 interviews with people aged over 70 who regularly use some form of social technology. Our results indicate that social technology plays different roles in the lives of older people. It strengthens the existing social relationships and social structures. It also brings depth and fun to the social contacts of older people and in this way, enriches their social lives. Social technology also gives a sense of safety and peace of mind to the older people themselves but also to their network members. However, there are barriers in the use of social technology. The older people struggled with using social technology and feel that social technology sometimes stands in the way of real human contact. In supporting and facilitating people’s relationship with others, a community and society, technology helps fulfil older people’s need for connectedness, meaningfulness and independence. However, the relationship with independence is ambiguous. Their life experience gives older people a thoughtful way of looking at social technology and the role it plays in their lives.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4969
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • interventions
  • older people
  • social life
  • social needs
  • social technology


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