How to fulfil social needs of older people: Exploring design opportunities for technological interventions

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Social needs are important basic human needs; when not satisfied, loneliness and social isolation can occur and subsequently sickness or even premature death. For older people social needs can be more difficult to satisfy because of the loss of resources such as health and mobility. Interventions for older people to satisfy social needs are often not evaluated and when evaluated are not proven successful. Technological interventions can be successful, but the relationship between technology and social wellbeing is complex and more research in this area is needed. The aim of this research is to uncover design opportunities for technological interventions to fulfil social needs of older people. Context-mapping sessions are a way to gain more insight into the social needs of older people and to involve them in the design of interventions to fulfil social needs. Participants of the context-mapping sessions were older people and social workers working with older people. Four sessions with a total of 20 participants were held to generate ideas for interventions to satisfy social needs. The results are transcripts from the discussion parts of the context-mapping sessions and collages the participants created. The transcripts were independently analysed and inductive codes were attached to quotations in the transcripts that are relevant to the research question and subsequently thematic analysis took place. Collages made by the participants were independently analysed by the researchers and after discussion consensus was reached about important themes. The following three main themes emerged: ‘connectedness’, ‘independence’ and ‘meaningfulness’. Technology was not identified as a separate theme, but was addressed in relation to the abovementioned themes. Staying active in a meaningful way, for example by engaging in volunteer work, may fulfil the three needs of being connected, independent and meaningful. In addition, interventions can also focus on the need to be and remain independent and to deal with becoming more dependent. The older people in our study have an ambivalent attitude towards technology, which needs to be taken into account when designing an intervention. We conclude this paper by making recommendations for possible technological interventions to fulfil social needs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)156-167
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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