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Category Archives: Engineering, Arch & IT

Social media decreases loneliness for older adults

Social media can be an effective tool for decreasing loneliness for older Australians according to new research conducted at the University of Sydney.

Social isolation can pose a significant problem for older adults especially for those who are house-bound, says Professor Robert Steele who led the Connecting Older Adults research project.

Professor Steele says while technologies are increasingly assisting older Australians to reside longer in their homes, there is also a flip side: an increased risk of loneliness or isolation. He says the year and a half long research project aimed to determine if social media use could provide benefits for older adults in relation to loneliness and social engagement.

Professor Steele, Head of Discipline and Chair of the Discipline of Health Informatics at the University’s Faculty of Health Sciences, said that in commencing the project, he was additionally interested in such questions as do cost, privacy concerns or lack of interest or self-efficacy in using the technologies pose significant obstacles to older adults utilising them.

The Connecting Older Adults project was funded by the Department of Family and Community Services and was carried out with collaboration from peak seniors community bodies, the Australian Seniors Computing Clubs Association and Council on the Ageing NSW.

The study involved 150 participants aged 55 and over with the majority aged 65 and over. They were provided with only brief training in three social media technologies, Twitter, Facebook and Skype, prior to a six month trial period.

“The results we have are very interesting and supportive of these technologies” reported Professor Steele. Standardised scales were used to measure loneliness, such as the 20 item UCLA loneliness scale, pre and post the trial period. Results showed a highly statistically significant decrease in loneliness when comparing pre-trial data to post-trial data, for participants who started using the social media technologies. The majority of participants also reported that the use of technologies help them to be more connected and engaged with the community.

“In post-trial data we also wished to further determine the views of the older adult participants to determine their possible continued future use of the technologies or otherwise and other indicators of their perceptions of the technologies” says Professor Steele. A number of results strongly supported the effectiveness of the technologies: approximately 80 percent of respondents indicated they would continue to use the social media technologies after the end of the trial, and approximately 65 percent agreed or strongly agreed that the technologies were easy to use. This suggested that even providing short training sessions may be effective in overcoming technology barriers.

While the researchers expected costs to be a possible barrier in using the technologies, surprisingly over 90 percent agreed or strongly agreed that the technologies were affordable to use, and even a majority indicated that they considered the use of the social media technologies would be a factor in enabling them to live independently at home for longer.

Other interesting results showed variation between pre-trial views and observed participant behaviours. In the pre-trial data collection, Facebook was initially viewed negatively by a number of participants with quite a few of the participants declining to participate in Facebook training for this reason. However based on the post-trial data, of the three technologies Facebook emerged to be the most frequently used by the largest number of participants, followed by Skype, and with Twitter being the least used technology, and by the smallest number of participants.

Media enquiries: Victoria Hollick, 9351 2579, 0401 711 361,

Smartphone users at risk of man-in-the-middle

Smartphone users at risk of man-in-the-middle

Smartphone users who remotely check their emails are at risk of online hackers gaining access to their devices, ECU researcher Mr Peter Hannay has found. Mr Hannay’s new research has found a way to hack in to people’s smartphones by impersonating a Microsoft Exchange server, gaining access to their private information or completely wiping theContinue Reading

Research to link mobile phones and health

Research to link mobile phones and health

A Murdoch University PhD candidate envisions a future in which everyone wears a low-energy sensor to monitor their health – and he’s doing the computing work to make it a reality. James Meneghello of Murdoch’s School of Information Technology recently returned from three months with DistriNet Research Group at the University of Leuven (KU Leuven)Continue Reading

Flight experiment goes boldly forth to advance new technology

Flight experiment goes boldly forth to advance new technology

A hypersonic flight experiment at eight times the speed of sound, led by a University of Queensland PhD student, has safely launched in Norway. PhD student Dillon Hunt, a senior mission systems engineer with Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO), was scientific and technical lead for the trial. It involved scientists from four nationsContinue Reading

Sniff of success

Sniff of success

Charles Harb doesn’t want to put bomb sniffer dogs out of a job, but a laser device developed at UNSW Canberra capable of detecting tiny traces of explosive vapour might just do that. The machine is “about 100 times more sensitive and … 100 times faster than any other detection device”, according to Associate ProfessorContinue Reading

Bionic muscle regeneration within reach

Car accident victims and cancer patients are among those who may benefit from a University of Wollongong breakthrough in the use of nanostructured bionic platforms to regenerate muscles. The development, which features in the November issue of the prestigious new journal Advanced Health Care Materials, gives scientists the ability to align muscle cells and facilitateContinue Reading

Chinese language – breaking the chain

The written Chinese language is like a beautiful unbroken chain of symbols, say University of Sydney researchers who are developing IT solutions that will make information extraction from Chinese text easier and faster. Without an intimate knowledge of the language structure and its inter-connections it can be almost impossible to extract information from Chinese textContinue Reading

World first in fingermark detection at UTS

A novel use of aptamers, or man-made chemical antibodies, has led to a world-first fingermark detection technique developed by the UTS Centre for Forensic Science (CFS) and the National Centre for Forensic Studies (NCFS) at the University of Canberra. Led by PhD student Mike Wood, the technique represents a breakthrough for the field of forensicContinue Reading

Meeting of miniatures: technology is at a critical junction

OPINION: It’s early morning, you’re preparing for the day ahead and thinking about life’s important conundrums. Is there enough muesli left for the week? Do you have enough time to catch the bus? Are you going to meet that looming deadline at work? How are we going to continue improving electronic technology beyond today’s generation? OK,Continue Reading

Laws not the key to safe phone use in cars

New technology, rather than new laws, is the key to improving driver safety while using mobile phones in cars, according to a QUT expert. Professor Simon Washington from QUT’s Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety (CARRS-Q) said a new law in New South Wales requiring drivers to use Bluetooth or put their phone in aContinue Reading

Pro-smoking apps for smartphones the latest tobacco advertising outlet

Pro-smoking content, some featuring explicit cigarette brand images, is being promoted in smartphone apps reaching millions of users worldwide, including teenagers and children. The easy availability of such apps in violation of Australia’s ban on tobacco advertising is the focus of research by the University of Sydney, published today in the British Medical Journal. “TheContinue Reading

Solving bubble troubles: new surface can prevent liquid explosions or even frost

Explosions caused by boiling liquid could be reduced by suppressing the liquid from bubbling, according to a new University of Melbourne study. The research, which is the first of its kind, has identified a specially engineered steel surface that allows liquids to boil without bubbling. “This would be advantageous for use in industrial situations suchContinue Reading

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