ELDERLY South Lakeland people have proved vital in the development of technology to tackle loneliness.

Ten senior citizens from the area teamed up with researchers from Lancaster University and volunteers from AgeUK to create an app which will help connect older adults with their communities.

Mobile Age, which is set to be released next year, will provide the elderly with real-time information about public transport, local events, the opening hours of public toilets, daylight hours, weather and parking.

New research has shown that loneliness increases the risk of death by 26 per cent and according to Age UK 3.9 million older adults see the television as their best form of company.

Researchers at the university are working on a project involving more than 100 older adults across Europe to co-create apps and digital services to deal with complex social issues such as isolation, exclusion and access to services.

The UK arm of the Mobile Age project, which will culminate in written policy briefs for the European Union and UK government, is focused on South Lakeland.

"What we want to do is address the issues of loneliness and social isolation in rural districts," said Professor Niall Hayes, from Lancaster University. "What we found out very early on was loneliness has very serious health challenges so our solution to that was to work with older adults.

"This is an app developed for and by older adults. It is set up to focus on face-to-face social interaction and how technology can enable that."

With just 18 per cent of elderly South Lakeland residents thought to have access to the internet, one of the key hurdles for developers to overcome was accessibility of the app.

"I think it will be a useful service," said Barbara Chorley, 71, from Kendal, who was among those who helped researchers develop the app. "If you can get people to use it, it will help them meet like-minded people, find out what's going on, and hopefully it will grow and grow."

Hugh Tomlinson, deputy chief officer of AgeUK South Lakeland, said: "We live in a district where 54 per cent of our older people are living in rural isolation. This provides an opportunity to create a virtual connectivity – it's a form of linking people to society. This app is a major step forward in tackling loneliness."