Can sharing photos online help reduce feelings of loneliness in older people?

Monday, 15 January 2018

Older people's online photo sharing habits

A new research project between Oxford Brookes University and The Open University is investigating whether sharing photographs via social media mitigates loneliness in older people and enhances their wellbeing.

The project, co-led by Professor Shailey Minocha of The Open University and Dr Sarah Quinton at Oxford Brookes University, is funded by the Sir Halley Stewart Trust and supported by Age UK Milton Keynes. It will look at older people aged 60 and over.   

The project will address the interlinked issues of ageing, loneliness, social isolation and wellbeing with individuals. Participating in the creative activity of taking photographs and sharing them online via email or social media platforms such as Facebook or Instagram may help overcome some of these issues.  

Dr Sarah Quinton, Senior Lecturer in Marketing at Oxford Brookes University said: “We want to investigate how older people communicate with others through digital technologies and social media, particularly how sharing photographs acts as a vehicle to share life experiences and interests.  

“Through this study we will explore the perceived value of photo sharing online in tackling social isolation and loneliness in older people but also its benefits to people’s wellbeing and cognitive function. The results from this study will provide actionable insight for organisations that support older people in later life.”

Through this study we will explore the perceived value of photo sharing online in tackling social isolation and loneliness in older people but also its benefits to people’s wellbeing and cognitive function.

Dr Sarah Quinton, Senior Lecturer in Marketing, Oxford Brookes University

The study at Oxford Brookes University is in two stages; the first is an online questionnaire for people aged 60 and over about their experiences sharing photos online and takes no more than 10 minutes. Complete the survey online.

Professor of Learning Technologies and Social Computing, Shailey Minocha, said: “Our previous research with Age UK Milton Keynes has shown that online social interactions help in alleviatingsocial isolation and loneliness – especially if older people are able to match online interactions with their interests. 

“Over the last few years, photography has become easier with cameras integrated into mobile phones and Tablets. In this project, we will investigate how photography and online sharing can help towards social connectivity of people aged over 60 years and for maintaining their relationships with family and friends, for making new connections, and for inter-generational communication.”  

The second stage of the study is a discussion group lasting approximately an hour and a half for older people who share photographs online and via social media. Participants will be encouraged to discuss why and how they share images and what perceived benefits they derive from doing so, in addition to talking about any constraints to sharing.  

This will take place on Tuesday 23 January at Oxford Brookes University, Headington Campus.  

For older people who do not share photographs online, there will be a further discussion group at the same location on Friday 23 February.  

Those interested in taking part in the discussion groups or who require more information about the survey can email Dr Quinton at sequinton@brookes.ac.uk

The results of the research project are expected in the summer.