Senior couple looking at an iPad.


As society becomes ever more digital, those without access to technology are at risk of social isolation, with those that live in rural and coastal communities being particularly impacted.
A connection to community, groups and activities in our neighbourhoods and cultural landscapes are essential for social inclusion and healthy ageing. 
In regions where traditional industries such as farming, mining, fishing and port activity have declined, adults starting their careers may also have fewer opportunities to get involved in digital technologies. 
The Intergenerational Codesign of Novel Technologies in Coastal Communities (ICONIC) is an interdisciplinary Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funded project, delivered by the Centre for Health Technology which aims to improve digital inclusion and support connection to communities and digital activity. 

The project 

The project aims to recruit 80 adults aged 50 or older and 40 adults aged 16–30. 
Participants will work together with researchers to develop new technologies aimed at creating connections within the region. 
The following technologies will be used and developed:
  • Extended reality: giving participants the ability to move around heritage sites and natural landscapes.
  • Social games: connecting people based on local history, culture and environment. 
  • Underwater telepresence: enabling users to explore and engage with underwater environments via live camera or robotic footage.
  • AI voice interface: allowing those without broadband telephone access to online resources such as museums and community groups to make connections with people. 
Older man playing video games with a young boy
Young women with a white t-shirt and denim top wearing a virtual reality headset, and holding VR controllers.  Image courtesy of Pexel: Tima Miroshnichenko

The process 

Workshops and interviews 
Participants will be able to join a minimum of five in-person monthly workshops. Interviews and questionnaires will be used to understand:
  • changes in digital use and confidence
  • connectivity to community and culture
  • young people’s interest in STEM subjects
  • young people’s attitudes to older people.
All participants will receive reimbursement and a participation certificate.

Social enterprise 

A social enterprise will be set up to work with our partner organisations and participants to demonstrate the technologies that have been used.
This will carry forward the development and implementation of technologies, and continue to engage with young people within digital development. 
Orange fish underwater. Image courtesy of Pexels: Saad Alaiyadhi