Abertay University has been awarded £276,000 as part of the ground-breaking From Isolation to Inclusion project (i2i) aimed at using new technologies such as virtual reality, apps and videogames to tackle loneliness and social isolation.
From Isolation to Inclusion involves multiple partners from across Europe’s North Sea Region including Norway’s University of Agder, which leads the project, along with institutions in Germany, Belgium, Sweden and Denmark.
Abertay University, home of the world’s first degrees in Computer Games and Ethical Hacking, is to help propose innovative technological solutions to tackle the issue.
How Can Technology Help?
Researcher Dr Paula Forbes, from Abertay’s Division of Social Sciences, said: “With so many people experiencing social isolation and loneliness, the public sector is struggling to address this complex problem. The i2i project will work with third sector organisations as well as local authorities and policy makers to co-design and test several novel innovative approaches.
“Abertay has a particular interest in looking at how technology can be used to make connections and decrease social isolation.
“We will investigate the use of novel technology such as Virtual and Augmented Reality and Computer Games, along with more familiar technology to make connections and ensure that despite being physically isolated, people can still feel socially included.”
Problem Predates Corona
The project follows the release of recent numbers from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) which revealed that more than a third of people living in Scotland have felt lonely during the current coronavirus pandemic.
Dr Forbes added: “In the current Covid 19 climate we are all having a glimpse of what it is like to be isolated, albeit temporarily.
“We should remember that large numbers of people are socially isolated and lonely even before the restrictions imposed by the Coronavirus crisis existed.
“We believe that measures for restricting the virus will mean that social distancing will be a feature of our lives for some time, especially for those with underlying health conditions or older people.
“This means that many people, especially those living alone, will be feeling increasingly isolated. Finding a solution requires action from many different agencies.”
International Project Partners
From Isolation to Inclusion Project partners in the UK include the Canal and River Trust, and the Campaign to End Loneliness.
The i2i project is part of an EU Cohesion Policy called Interreg that supports cooperation across borders and is co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
Professor Mohamed Branine, Dean of Abertay’s School of Business, Law and Social Sciences, said: “We are delighted to be part of this project, which fits in well with the school’s research strategy. It has come at a very important time, during a pandemic which has caused people who have never experienced isolation before to deal with the stark reality of this problem.”
Abertay is open to working with other interested parties to which this project would have a positive impact.