The elderly have become increasingly isolated during the pandemic, a City University of Hong Kong survey has found.
Hong Kong has implemented a number of social distancing rules to prevent Covid
outbreaks, and the elderly, as a high-risk group, are generally advised to reduce outdoor activities.
The team interviewed 341 elderly people in Ho Man Tin by phone in March about their social status and feeling of isolation. The results were compared to a similar survey conducted back in 2018.
Participants were given a score of up to 30 under the Lubben Social Network Scale. A higher score means they are more sociable and a score lower than 12 indicates a risk of social isolation.
The survey found that the average score of respondents was only 9.6, which was lower than 13.6 in 2018.
In addition, a growing dependence on smartphones and video calls was observed among the elderly as they have reduced social activities.
The survey also found that 70 percent of the elderly aged 80 or below use smartphones, but only 28 percent aged 80 or above do.
Those who don't have smartphones would have less contact with friends and relatives during the pandemic, researchers said.
The team also interviewed the elderly about their views on “telemedicine” – meaning medical consultation done through smartphones. It found that only 20 percent of respondents were confident in consulting healthcare professionals remotely, while the others preferred face-to-face consultations.
"There are two main barriers to the promotion of telemedicine among the elderly, including that they are not used to using smartphones and not confident to video medical consultation," the team said.
They proposed to provide the elderly with home services to understand their needs and suggest appropriate services.
The elderly can also enjoy telemedicine with the assistance of nurses and telemedicine equipment.