Special Issue "New Media and Social Technology to Support Healthy Ageing and Aged Care"

A special issue of International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (ISSN 1660-4601). This special issue belongs to the section "Digital Health".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 August 2021.

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Loretta Baldassar
E-Mail Website1 Website2
Guest Editor
Faculty of Arts, Business, Law and Education, School of Social Sciences, The University of Western Australia, 6009 Perth, Australia
Interests: ageing; Australian settler society; ethnicity, race relations, migration and second generation; social uses of new technologies; transnationalism, transnational families; women, gender, sexuality
Dr. Lukasz Krzyzowski
E-Mail Website1 Website2
Assistant Guest Editor
Faculty of Arts, Business, Law and Education, School of Social Sciences, The University of Western Australia, 6009 Perth, Australia
Interests: social network analysis; co-designing methodologies; ambient and assisted living technology; transnational families; social inclusion; human-computer interactions; aged care and intergenerational relations; migration and diversity
Dr. Catriona Stevens
E-Mail Website
Assistant Guest Editor
Faculty of Arts, Business, Law and Education, School of Social Sciences, The University of Western Australia, 6009 Perth, Australia
Interests: Chinese migration; migration and social class; citizenship; temporary migration; labour migration; ageing; aged care and diversity; elder abuse; ethnicity; mixedness

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Digital technology has the important potential to support ageing and wellbeing by facilitating social interactions and community engagement to improve social inclusion. Isolation and loneliness are significant public health concerns for older adults affecting their physical health, with increased risk of cardiovascular, autoimmune, and neurocognitive problems (Gerst-Emerson et al 2015), as well as their mental health, with a higher risk of depression and anxiety (Santini et al 2020). As people age, their social networks often shrink as they have fewer opportunities to socialize, which can reduce their kin support, especially if their family move away for work (Baldassar and Wilding 2020). Inaccessible community life infrastructure might also evoke fear of social rejection, exploitation, paternalistic prejudice, and benevolent ageism (Goll et al 2015; Vale, Bisconti and Sublett 2020). Service providers also struggle to meet the social support needs of older adults, in particular in residential care (Interim Report 2019) and in rural and remote areas (Gardiner et al 2018). Technologies can play an important role in maintaining and shaping the social environment and support networks of older adults, including monitoring risks (cameras, built-in sensors in smart homes), and bodily conditions (alarm necklaces, wearable measurement sensors). Mobile and web apps, wearable, virtual reality, ambient and assisted living technology, social media, and interactive websites can also facilitate physical distancing and simultaneously improve social participation, virtual engagement, access to health-related information and services, and the delivery of community-based assistance. However, participation in digital environments requires certain skills, competences, and motivation, and available civic technology is often not designed in a way that facilitates the digital citizenship of older people (Baldassar, Wilding, Krzyzowski, Mihelcic 2020).

The role digital technology can play in reducing loneliness and social isolation has been made even more evident by the social distancing requirements of the COVID-19 pandemic, and has become a particular area of interest for the efficiency of aged care providers. However, technology interventions also have the potential to do harm if they provide inappropriate advice, involve interactions that undermine trust, data collection, and/or sharing without users’ control (Michie et al 2017). As a result, technological interventions in aged care are also controversial: the potential benefits of using technological solutions are contrasted with concerns about privacy (van Heek, Himmel and Ziefle 2017) and fears that personal care will be replaced by “cold” technology for the sake of economic profit (Pols 2012; Mol, Moser and Pols 2010). Digital and communication technologies enabling remote connections and social participation are often not integrated within care, and many facilities do not provide Wi-Fi (Moyle et al 2018).

Scholars advocating an “active ageing” paradigm argue that digital solutions enable elderly people to remain self-reliant and healthier for longer (Higgs and Gilleard 2015). Scholarly interest in these technologies has grown in a number of disciplines, from medical engineering, computer science, and architecture to psychology, communication science, sociology, and anthropology. In addition, migration studies demonstrate that geographically dispersed social networks play an important role in the care and support of older adults (Baldassar, Baldock and Wilding 2007; Krzyzowski 2015; Baldassar and Wilding 2020) and that caring across distance is facilitated by the rapid development of communication technologies and co-presence digital services (Wilding and Baldassar 2018). Research in these areas stresses that while there is a considerable push underway to develop technological solutions to support ageing and wellbeing and social inclusion outcomes, much of this technology development takes a top-down approach, which results in poor uptake (Michie et al 2017). In particular, most technological solutions for aged care are being developed with minimal involvement of older adults themselves, and are primarily focused on individuals rather than their social-relational environments. Mirroring service delivery in general, the lack of engagement with patients themselves—especially older adults from marginal groups who are at greater risk of isolation—is a major barrier to effective technology innovation.

This Special Issue calls for better embeddedness of technological solutions for older people in social relationships. We propose the notion of social technology: technology that initiates/sparks social connectivity and that does not involve solely online interactions; technology that is co-designed or re-adjusted to older adults’ needs and digital skills; technology that is user-friendly and focused on overcoming fear of the digital world to bridge the digital divide; technology that is adaptive to changing personal situations and care tinkering practices; technology that facilitates mutual help, (digital skills) learning and understanding that go beyond digital worlds and promote meaningful engagement, connectivity, and sustained collaborative communities. Social technologies are perceived as holistic, inclusive, and user-centered, and can be combined with personal support networks and services. In this view, ICT-based environments are seen as diminishing dependency to increase self-esteem and a sense of social belonging while reducing the risks of loneliness and isolation.        

We invite papers that explore how social technology innovations work best when they are embedded in social relational contexts, paying attention to all the people and systems involved, including patients, family and friends, volunteers, neighbors, care staff, management, community organizations, etc. We welcome papers that explore: the role and importance of digital citizenship and literacy for older people’s health and wellbeing; the evaluation of co-design social technology solutions to address isolation and social inclusion; the importance of motivation and strategies to successfully embed social innovation and technological solutions in social and cultural relationships; and that address the role of digital technologies in ageing and wellbeing, as well as aged care service delivery. Methodological papers discussing various approaches to participatory, co-design, and co-operative technology for older adults are also welcomed.


Please note important dates below:

Please submit your abstract of about 250 words by 30 April 2021 through the online protal


As part of the process, we will be inviting researchers to an online workshop to present and discuss their paper on the 30 June 2021.

The deadline for submitting final manuscripts is 31 August 2021 (see submission information below).



Goll, J.C.; Charlesworth, G.; Scior, K.; Stott, J. Barriers to social participation among lonely older adults: the influence of social fears and identity. PloS ONE, 2015, 10, e0116664.

Michael, T.V.; Toni, L.B.; Jennifer, F.S. Benevolent ageism: Attitudes of overaccommodative behavior toward older women. J. Soc. Psycho., 2020, 160, 548–558.

Michie, S.; Yardley, L.; West, R.; Patrick, K.; Greaves, F. Developing and Evaluating Digital Interventions to Promote Behavior Change in Health and Health Care: Recommendations Resulting from an International Workshop. J. Med. Internet Res., 2017, 19, e232.

van Heek, J.; Himmel, S.; Ziefle, M. Privacy, Data Security, and the Acceptance of AAL-Systems—A User-Specific Perspective. In: Zhou J., Salvendy G. (eds) Human Aspects of IT for the Aged Population. Aging, Design and User Experience. ITAP 2017. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 10297. Springer, Cham.

Wendy, M.; Cindy, J.; Jenny, M.; Toni, D.; Tamara, O. ‘We don’t even have Wi-Fi’: A descriptive study exploring current use and availability of communication technologies in residential aged care. Contemporary Nurse, 2018, 54, 35–43.

Prof. Dr. Loretta Baldassar
Dr. Lukasz Krzyzowski
Dr. Catriona Stevens
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2300 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • social technology and ageing
  • digital divide
  • digital citizenship
  • smart ageing
  • co-designing methodologies

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission.
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