Reducing digital disadvantage in older people during the COVID-19 pandemic: the role of families/carers at increasing technology acceptance and use.

This research aims to explore approaches used by family members to encourage/support older people (65+ years) to engage with digital technology during the pandemic.

Start date
1 October 2021
3 years
Application deadline
Funding source
The University of Surrey (ARC KSS)
Funding information
  • Full UK tuition fee waiver
  • Stipend – circa £15,609 p.a.
  • Personal Computer (provided by the host department)


With COVID-19 primary, community and secondary care services have rapidly moved to some form of digital delivery. This has illuminated the negative impact that being digitally disadvantaged can have on access to healthcare services and resulted in the widening of existing inequalities for specific service user groups.

This research aims to explore approaches used by family members to encourage/support older people to engage with digital technology during the pandemic. The studentship will:

  1. Explore family members’ experience of encouraging/supporting an older adult to use digital technology in general
  2. Compare experiences of older people and their family members experiences of being encouraged/encouraging to engage with digital technology and observe skills learned in action
  3. Develop ‘Lessons learned’ resources that can be shared with primary care services seeking the limit digital disadvantage in older people’s access to their services

You will work alongside researchers across the University of Surrey and Brighton & Sussex Medical School. Your primary supervisor will be Dr Jo Armes (Reader in Cancer Care & Lead for Digital Innovation: School of Health Sciences) and your second supervisor will be Dr Freda Mold (Lecturer in Integrated Care: School of Health Sciences). You will also be supported by a third supervisor at the Brighton & Sussex Medical School Professor Harm van Marwijk (Department of Primary Care and Public Health).

The studentship is affiliated with the Applied Research Collaborative for Kent, Surrey & Sussex and so the student will have the opportunity to develop a broad collaborative network.

The project will involve mixed methods research and work closely with community partners in Kent, Surrey and Sussex. We are looking for a student who feels passionately about conducting research with older adults, with a strong desire to engage in applied health research which has the potential to influence policy and practice. We are also looking for someone with excellent communication skills, experience in qualitative and quantitative research methodologies and an interest in developing research into digital health.

Related links
Sussex partnership NHS

The student will be allocated office space within the School of Health Sciences (Kate Granger Building). The School is based in a modern, purpose built, state of the art teaching facility on the University of Surrey campus in Guildford.

Phase Two: Semi-structured qualitative interviews.

Interviews will be conducted via telephone or Teams

Phase Three: Case study

Interviews will be conducted either in person or via telephone /Teams (according to participant preference).

Eligibility criteria

Candidates must hold a MSc degree in relevant subject (Psychology, Social Sciences or Health) minimum 65%.

Available to UK students.

IELTS requirements: 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6 in each individual category.

How to apply

All applications should be sent through the PhD Health Sciences course page. To apply potential students should complete a cover letter demonstrating their interest in, and suitability for, the project. We would also like a CV detailing your previous research experience, and two academic references. Students will also be required to complete the application form found for PhD programmes in health sciences at the University of Surrey. Please clearly state the studentship title and supervisor on your application.

Application deadline

Contact details

Jo Armes
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 684553

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