Spring 2023 Newsletter
By Dr. Jennifer Peszka, Professor, Psychology
Dr. Anne Goldberg, Professor, Sociology/Anthropology
and Dr. Pete Gess, Professor, Psychology
During Spring 2021, in collaboration with AGEC, Hendrix faculty and students collected data on loneliness and satisfaction with social interactions in older Arkansans. Three major findings were identified: 1) there had been a reduction in group interactions and satisfaction with social interactions accompanying the pandemic for many older Arkansans, 2) online social interactions did lead to some satisfaction fulfilling lost in-person interactions, and 3) older Arkansans with financial strain were not as likely to utilize technology to supplement their social interactions. During the Spring of 2022, our group tried to address those findings by providing technology access, events to attend, and technical support to a group of low-income older Arkansans.
Using AGEC funding, 21 Chromebooks were purchased and delivered to 3 low-income housing facilities for older adults in Conway, Arkansas for 1 month.We worked with one staff person at each housing facility to schedule the events and to check the Chromebooks out to residents upon their request at any time to use on their own for events such as online AGEC events. Each Tuesday at Noon for 1 month, we produced online Memory Cafés (social interactions with a craft or activity as the theme) designed and led by Hendrix students (Food memories, Pencil Painting, Trivia, and Fun with Clay). For each café, one or two Hendrix students and/or faculty members set up the Chromebooks in a common area at three older-adult housing facilities and assisted residents using the Chromebooks to Zoom across the three older-adult housing facilities and to engage in the planned activity.
About the participants
Four students and 15 older Arkansans participated in the program.
Pre and post whole program assessments were designed and given to the contact staff person from each housing facility and kept with the Chromebooks to encourage completion. Post café assessments were also designed for each individual café. The goal of the assessment measures was to understand happiness, loneliness, comfort socializing online, and subjective well-being before and after events. Only 8 participants completed the pre-program data and only 1-2 completed the post-program data. Therefore, the results reported below should be taken with caution as the N is very small and unequal in the pre- and post-groups.
What they told us
Before and after the program, participants reported their comfort in using computers to socialize online and their enjoyment in using computers to socialize online on a scale from 1 – 7 where 1 meant not at all and 7 meant a great deal. The program increased comfort and enjoyment of socializing online using computers. They also reported an increased sense of belongingness on a belongingness scale with scores ranging from 4-28 (See Figure 1).
Summary: In person social interactions can decrease with aging. Providing online social interaction availability (technology, support, etc.) could help to offset this loss and protect from loneliness. A second iteration of our program will take place during Spring 2023 addressing the limits in the current program with assessment completion. Making sure that technology interactions are accessible to all older Arkansans is a worthwhile goal.
Figure 1. Comfort and Enjoyment using computers to socialize and feelings of belongingness before and after intervention program.