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By 2050, there will be twice as many seniors in the world, predicts the WHO.


Living conditions, healthcare, and incomes improved, but seniors feel continuously more isolated and lonelier. The question is ‘How do we address loneliness and isolation in ageing populations?’.


Loneliness ≠ isolation

Loneliness and isolation are not the same but can be experienced together or as a result of each other.


Loneliness is a state of sadness caused by the discrepancy between the social connections and relationships one wants to have and those they actually have in terms of meaning, rather than the number of people.

key fact #1

For 2/5 of UK's seniors,

the TV is their

sole companion

Today's millennials

(born between

1982 and 1996)

are 2050's seniors. 

If loneliness is caused by the discrepancy between the social connections and relationships one wants to have and those they actually have, how does the use of digital communication affect millennials’ and post millennials in relation loneliness and isolation?


redefining the problem

How might we understand

the relationship between the millennials'

 digital and physical worlds

and its lasting effect of loneliness?

As further research, we interviewed and observed using various ethnographic methods (participant/non-participant, digital and auto-ethnography) 376 persons. We distilled over 30 insights that explained how millennials'

(and post-millennials') communication skills

are affected by the use of digital devices. 









insight #1

People look at their phones rather than in people's faces when they are together


click here for more insights

Phones encourage rude behaviour while being in a public space (speak loudly, express strong emotions, etc)

insight #3

People who want to engage in conversation, show it with their body language

insight #4

insight #5

People ask for help online rather than from other people (tourists, map, bus)

People value face-to-face conversation more than digital communication

insight #6

insight #7

People use social media to communicate although they could do it via offline means of communication

insight #7

insight #7

insight #7

so what?

Our teams' hypothesis is that the solution to this modern illness lies in improving millennials' and post-millennials' communication skills so there is no discrepancy between their friendships in the digital world and their friendships in the real world, and therefore, no/less reason to experience loneliness and/or isolation. 

This research project demonstrated how different data collection methods, from non-participant observation to auto-ethnography and in-depth interviews can be used to tackle the problem of loneliness and isolation in ageing populations, and what are the opportunities and limitations of this approach. It turned out that non-participant

observation is not the best approach in studying how people use their mobile phones and that participant observation will allow the ethnographer to be closer to the people and gain a better understanding of the impact of social media on millennials' and post-millennials' relationships paired with in-depth interviews with the same subjects of research. 

This research project was realised as part of the Masters of Design at Ravensbourne University London in October 2019 - January 2020 by Ja Rajani and Stephanie Butcher (Design Managers) and Leonardo Gentili and Iulia Tvigun (Service Designers). All rights are reserved. Please reference the project accordingly, if you wish to share it or use it in your own research. 

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