Illustrative photo: Pexels
Sunday 3 September 2023, 15:07 – Text: Lenka Peřinová, Petra Hrušková

The Olomouc University Social Health Institute (OUSHI) of the Sts Cyril and Methodius Faculty of Theology, Palacký University is one of 36 partners in the international SHAPES (The Smart & Healthy Ageing through People Engaging in Supportive Systems) project, which aims to integrate technological, organisational, clinical, educational and social solutions to facilitate healthy and active ageing and maintain a high standard of living.

The SHAPES project, to which the Institute's staff have been dedicated, has produced successful pilot campaigns: more than 2,000 older people, carers and care providers have been involved in 36 pilot activities in 15 pilot sites in 11 European countries. In two pilots, OUSHI experts investigated the impact of using dance mats and tablets on the mental well-being of older people.

At the beginning of the experiment, the participants completed a questionnaire about their well-being, loneliness and health (e.g. UCLA, WHOQOL); after the experiment, ratings of the technology used were added to these scales. They completed the questionnaire again after three months. The researchers are now analysing the results.

"We enrolled 11 older persons in a pilot test of the effects of using the Dance Mat on mental well-being and loneliness. The experiment lasted 8 weeks. The older people tested the mat on which they 'danced' to well-known Czech tunes, from the simplest to the most physically demanding. At the same time, they were asked to describe how they use the technology," says Ing. Zdeněk Meier, Ph.D., project manager.

The second pilot project focused on the use of tablets. "In this project we involved 5 older persons and 1 carer. They were given tablets with the "pilot2_uc2" application and a technical support application installed. The application is used for video calls, recording appointments, events and providing content from informational, local and specialised websites (e.g. gardening, local culture). The principle of the experiment, which lasted 8 weeks, was to use technology to provide contacts and recommendations for events in the area and thus increase the social contacts of the older people," explained Dr Meier.

The results of the SHAPES project show that interventions to reduce loneliness have significant potential in the field of social work. The four core intervention strategies include improving social skills, increasing social support, increasing opportunities for social contact, and addressing maladaptive social behaviours and interactions.

"An approach that focuses on identifying and changing maladaptive thought processes and patterns related to social behaviour and interactions is appropriate in practice. Social workers can also work with clients to strengthen their social skills and self-esteem to overcome inappropriate social anxiety and improve their quality of life. We are still processing the results of the experiment, but it seems that technology and social contact can effectively reduce loneliness in older people," Meier added.

In light of the findings so far, it is advisable to support further research and development of interventions to reduce loneliness in social work, not only for older citizens. It is important to continuously improve and adapt interventions to the needs of clients and to make use of new technological possibilities that can provide effective tools to promote social contact and improve quality of life.

For up-to-date information on the pilot activities: https://shapes2020.eu/about-shapes/pilots/


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