Connecting to others: the maintenance of the social network of older people in Hong Kong amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Ka Yi Fung, Gina W F Lai, Danching Ruan, Odalia M H Wong

    Research output: Other contributionpeer-review


    This paper investigates why some how older people can maintain their social life through navigating between the virtual and physical worlds and the associated impacts on them of this networking on them when there is restriction on the access of public space in the physical world amid during the COVID-19 pandemic. Research has documented that people tend to navigate between the virtual and physical worlds during the process of formation and maintenance of social relations. The navigation ability owes much to the rapid advancements in communication technology. The social distancing measures implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic have made this online-offline navigation particularly important for reducing loneliness and mitigating the adverse psychological effects of the pandemic, to which older people are found to be more vulnerable than the younger ones. Yet, existing studies on online-offline social relations largely focus on the younger population, who are generally perceived to be more techno-savvy than their counterparts. This paper will thus fill this research gap.

    Data for the paper are drawn from participant observation Drawing on observational and in-depth interviews data of with around 30 older people in Hong Kong who have played PokemonPokémon Go since 2016. These older people have been playing the mobile video game together in parks and other public places almost every day before the outbreak of the pandemic. While there is no complete lock-down in Hong Kong, social distancing measures of various strictness have been implemented to restrict the number of people allowed to gather in public places according to the pandemic condition. Despite the restrictions, the older players are found to create a “hybrid third place” to maintain their social life as a group. The hybrid third place exists in both the physical and virtual worlds. Its creation and maintenance requires technical know-hows and players’ collective commitment. … The “hybrid third place” not only is a venue for older adults to extend their social life beyond the physical boundary, it also provides older adults with various kind of resources to cope with the challenges brought by the pandemic.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jul 2022


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