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Empowering support systems to reduce social isolation


2 socialBarcelona is looking to support families and healthcare professionals in the care of senior citizens to reduce isolation and loneliness.




Recent studies show the devastating effects of loneliness on health and the quality of life. Emotional isolation has been proved as high a risk factor for mortality as smoking. As isolation increases in Barcelona and across Europe, the elderly are increasingly vulnerable. Loneliness reduces their quality of life and directly affects their health and ability to remain independent. People with a strong support network remain healthier and independent for longer, which has a positive effect on local communities and the wider society in general.

In Barcelona, there are currently 338,000 people over 65 years old, a third of whom are over 80. By 2040, 1 in 4 people in the city will be over 65 years old. The City of Barcelona presently serves 19,000 users with regular visits from social workers as well as offering a teleservice project that responds to emergencies for 60,000 people. Two other programmes engage the community in detecting cases of social isolation (Radars) and in relieving the burden of caregivers (Respir).

The aim of the challenge is to deliver a technology platform that can promote coordinated networks to strengthen the relationships between those supporting isolated and housebound senior citizens. The platform will create synergies between formal and informal stakeholders – the care sector (professionals) and the informal sector (family, friends, neighbours and volunteers). This will allow different stakeholders to communicate, participate and respond to alerts and the needs indicated by the isolated person, the caregivers or the professionals. This will break down barriers and improve the ability of the individual support systems to provide better care and reduce social isolation.

The winning solution will preferably offer an open-source platform as it is essential that new layers of services can be added at later stages in a dynamic framework adaptable to future needs. A solution with a sustainable business model will be a benefit.

The functionalities of the digital platform should include:

  • communication service by email, video and/or voice – all stakeholders should be connected and in permanent dialogue;
  • social media features with photograph and video storage – to help promote socialisation;
  • a shared calendar – to support daily activities and manage healthcare appointments;
  • alert system;
  • encrypted safe storage of important documents and personal data – this must support the security and privacy of personal data at all times;
  • health monitoring features;
  • provision of advice and training on use.

Enhancing communication and empowering families and professional caregivers in an efficient and inclusive way transforms lives.Barcelona is committed to promoting and enabling quality of life among its citizens as well as building the support structures for a better future.

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