Vodafone is launching a nationwide programme of free masterclasses, including five in the south east, in response to its research into technology and loneliness.
The report Harnessing Technology to Tackle Loneliness, completed by WPI Economics on behalf of Vodafone, was unveiled at the House of Commons last week, with the support of Matthew Hancock, secretary of state for health and social care, and loneliness minister Mims Davies.
For the first time, the report looks at the financial implications of loneliness in the over-50s and puts a figure of £270million on the annual cost to the south east economy.
It suggests technology could be used alongside more traditional community services to enable more social interaction but points out the significant number of older people who are not confident in using it.
The free Vodafone TechConnect masterclasses will enable people to learn how to use technology more fully, helping to reduce loneliness and encouraging independence.
Ms Davies said: “Loneliness is one of the most pressing public health challenges we face and technology has a huge role to play in bringing people together.
“Businesses, charities and government are working together to reduce loneliness and build more connected communities.
“Vodafone’s work highlights how digital tech can be a part of the solution.”
The report shows the huge impact of loneliness in the south east, with an estimated 210,000 people affected.
Vodafone says technology can be used to keep family and friends connected but data highlighted in the report shows a third of adults aged 65 and older are not confident using electronic devices and accessing the internet.
Nick Jeffery, chief executive, said: “The cost of loneliness to the individual, their friends and the economy is vast. This cost is financial, emotional and physical. It requires a comprehensive response from government, charities, the health system and businesses.
“With an increasingly ageing population we have to act quickly and work together to help solve the problem of loneliness.
“Our report shows how technology and innovation, such as smart devices, as well as teaching tech skills can play an important role in reducing loneliness and enabling people to live independently for longer.”
The company has organised 20 free TechConnect events across the UK in 2019 to help the over-50s to understand a little more about technology.
To register, older people can visit their nearest Vodafone store or visit www.vodafone.co.uk/techconnect