Social media is to be harnessed to enable older people in Ireland to receive volunteer services and make new friends.

A two-year partnership between the Irish software research centre Lero, IBM Ireland and the Ireland Smart Ageing Exchange is looking for volunteers over the age of 50 to take part in the study.

The research will involve the partners collecting data from the participants and turning that information into a platform to help them and then monitoring how it works.

"Social isolation remains an issue for many older people who still have a lot to offer society but do not necessarily have the means, confidence or encouragement to engage with the wider community through social networking or otherwise," said Dr Sarah Beecham of Lero, who is leading the project.

"While there are over 40 applications specifically designed for older people in different regions of the world, it may be that current technology-based solutions are not providing the right answer or are failing to reach the older adult."

The project will use IBM's Bluemix platform to create a hub for local communities, businesses, individuals and schools to offer skills and assistance.

It is hoped that the platform will help ease social isolation among some older people, as well as offer advice and support.

Anyone interested in taking part should contact Professor Ita Richardson at the University of Limerick by emailing ita.richardson@lero.ie.

Science Foundation Ireland has supported the project with a grant of €116,400.