Reducing Social Isolation in Barcelona

Recent studies reveal the devastating consequences of loneliness on well being. Emotional isolation is a high risk factor for mortality. One city that highlighted this issue was Barcelona but it comes as a surprise that loneliness and social isolation is a generic problem right across Europe.

In particular, older people are the most vulnerable. Loneliness reduces their well being and directly influences their ability to stay independent. People who have a strong support community stay healthier and more independent for longer, which has a beneficial impacts on local communities and the broader society generally.

The city of Barcelona decided programs to engage the community in discovering cases of social isolation and alleviating the burden of health professionals.

Part of the smart cities challenge, the purpose was to produce a technology platform to encourage coordinated networks to reinforce the connections between isolated and housebound senior citizens.

It included bringing together formal and casual stakeholders and industry (professionals) as well as family, friends, acquaintances and volunteers.
The aim of the platform was to enable unique stakeholders to communicate, engage and respond to alarms as well as the demands indicated by the isolated individual.

The winning alternative had to be an open-source platform, as it’s very important that new layers of providers could be included in later stages in a dynamic framework adaptable to future demands.

The functionalities of this electronic platform included:

  • Communicating support by email, voice or video all stakeholders must be linked and in permanent conversation;
  • Social networking features with video and photograph storage — to help encourage socialization;
  • A shared calendar — to encourage daily tasks and handle medical care appointments;
  • alert system;
  • Encrypted safe storage of important records and personal data — that need to support the privacy and security of personal data constantly;
  • Health tracking features;
  • Provision of advice and instruction on use.