School or Research Centre
Kurongkurl Katitjin / School of Arts and Humanities / School of Medical and Health Sciences
This work was supported by the Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation (DJTSI) under Edith Cowan University Covid-19 Research Projects Grant [There is no grant number affiliated with this scheme].
Older adults are vulnerable to isolation and poor emotional wellbeing during COVID-19, however, their access to appropriate supports is unknown. The aim of this study was to explore older adults’ experiences accessing social and emotional support during the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia.
Ten older adults from Western Australia (Australia) aged 68 to 78 years participated in individual semi-structured interviews between December 2020 and January 2021. Responses were investigated using thematic analysis.
Three key themes emerged: adaptability and self-sufficiency; informal support-seeking; and digital and online technologies. Older adults were adaptable to COVID-19 restrictions; however, some were anxious about reconnecting with their social networks once restrictions had eased. Older adults relied on their informal support networks to maintain their social and emotional wellbeing during lockdown. Digital platforms (e.g., Zoom, social media) enabled older adults to stay connected with others, yet some older people were unable or reluctant to use technology, leaving them vulnerable to social isolation.
Older adults are resilient to the challenges of COVID-19. Informal supports and digital technologies are important to maintaining social and emotional wellbeing during lockdown. Local governments and community groups may benefit from increased funding to deliver services that promote social connectedness during times of crisis.
What is already known about this topic:
(1) Older adults are vulnerable to social isolation and poor mental health during COVID-19.
(2) Older adults are less likely to seek and receive help for their emotional and social health than younger age groups.
(3) Barriers to accessing appropriate supports include physical health problems, stigma, negative attitudes towards help-seeking and system-level factors.
What this topic adds:
(1) Older adults were able to adapt well to COVID-19 restrictions and relied on informal supports to maintain their wellbeing.
(2) Older adults with limited social networks and poor access to and/or knowledge of digital technologies are at the greatest risk of social and emotional declines.
(3) Telephone “warm” lines, volunteering opportunities, and programs to improve digital literacy may help to protect older adults’ social and emotional wellbeing during times of crises
Start of data collection time period
End of data collection time period
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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Scarfe, B., Adams, C., Gringart, E., McAullay, D., Sim, M., & Strobel, N. (2022). Maintaining social and emotional wellbeing among older adults during periods of increased social isolation: lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic [dataset]. Figshare. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.21579125.v1