Combating Isolation and Loneliness With an Online Personal Network Called Tyze

To combat isolation and loneliness among vulnerable individuals, including the disabled and frail elderly, the PLAN Institute for Caring Citizenship and Tyze Personal Networks developed Web-based social support networks called Tyze.

Dates of Project: December 2007–May 2013

Description: By reducing isolation and loneliness, social support networks significantly improve people’s health. Yet individuals with disabilities, chronic illnesses, or dementia often lack such networks. At the same time, older adults are the fastest-growing group using online social networking tools.

Key Findings

As a result of the work on this project:

  • Some 2,000 Tyze networks in Canada, California, Washington, Indiana, and Great Britain were in operation by September 2013, composed of some 10,000 patients, family members, friends, and caregivers. Take the case of Mary Ann:

She had an obscure disease with no dedicated support group. She used Tyze to create a small network of family, friends, and specialists who have treated people with the disease, all of whom have posted new information regularly. Mary Ann felt that her children became more involved in her care, and that she was more in control of her life and her condition.

  • Project staff created the Tyze Personal Networks website to inform providers and individuals about the service, and developed training modules and a help desk to assist users. Comments from participating organizations include:

“Tyze is great for allowing families to stay in touch and know how elder members of the family are coming along and how they can help.”

“Tyze provides a more secure social network, which means younger users or users with special needs are more protected in their Internet use but can still have fun connecting with others online.”

  • Tyze established its first partnership with an information technology company, Procura, a major software vendor based in Victoria, British Columbia.