This paper reports on an ongoing PhD study at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design at the University of Dundee. Loneliness is recognized as one of the most impactful and endemic social problems of our time. And whilst we are susceptible to loneliness regardless of age, older adults are understood to be at particular risk as a result of various age related changes and life transitions. This is highlighted by recent inquiries by the Scottish Government’s Equal Opportunities Committee (2015) and the growing prominence in the media of movements such as the Campaign to End Loneliness: Connections in Older Age (2011). A subjective, negative experience, loneliness is defined as the perception of fewer quality social or interpersonal relationships than desired. As such loneliness might be described as social disconnection. With current figures suggesting that at least 10% of UK adults aged 65 years and over feel lonely all of the time, this necessitates attention to our understanding of what it means and feels like to be truly and socially connected in our later years. Aiming to both understand connectedness as an experience and to design possible future support tools, this study takes inspiration from older adults’ social successes including engagement with family and peers, skills development and community groups. Focusing predominantly on textile crafts and skills, this ongoing PhD study considers phatic–or social–technology in discovering alternative modes for connecting. The intersecting field of e-textiles–where electronic tactile textile objects are used to augment and support digital social interaction back into the physical world–proffers opportunity in bridging issues that perpetuate loneliness or social disconnection, such as poor health, distance and bereavement.
- social connectedness