How technology can create a support network among older adults

Every country in the world is experiencing growth in the proportion of aging population. „The number of people aged 65 and over worldwide is expected to double from 761 million in 2021 to 1.6 billion in 2050,” they estimate. From UN.

A common phenomenon among many older adults—especially in lower socioeconomic strata—is the difficulty of accessing information in the digital age.

„Regardless of the economic, sociocultural and health situation of every older person, when services and activities are offered on different and multiple digital platforms without meeting accessibility and universal design criteria, people face a wall. They face difficulties. Frustration, negative feelings about their own aging and exclusion. self-concept,” says psychologist Marissa Barrera, institutional and social gerontologist and director of the Health and Senior Citizens Areas of the Presbytero José Mario Foundation. Pantaleo.

La Obra del Padre Mario, as the organization is known, is a foundation with more than 50 years of history whose mission is to promote the human development of the families of Gonzalez Catan through solidarity redistribution, better management and quality of services. .

Father Mario’s mission offers different activities to seniors in Gonzalez Cadon and Vire del Pino. (Image: courtesy of Fundación Presbítero José Mario Pantaleo and intervention by Marisol Echarri)

Useful experience

It was working on digital literacy even before the Covid-19 pandemic: “We offered computer courses to the elderly in our community. It was just another activity until the pandemic came, it was another learning experience, but we didn’t see it as essential to their lives. With the coronavirus, all our activities were mediated by technology,” explains Barrera.

„We have a day center in Gonzalez Caden where 60 seniors come from Monday to Friday from 8am to 4pm, in addition, recreational activities such as workshops, Aqua gym, etc., for about 500 people. In an epidemic, we looked for a way to communicate with them remotely: health care, monitoring how they were doing, we did it by phone; And we started doing workshops online through video call,” he adds.

It was quite a challenge, he says: “At first we thought it would be very difficult because even though we had experience working with older people, we were vulnerable. Negative stereotypes towards them (thinking that they don’t have the ability to learn or that they are too tough and can’t). However, with the support of their families, it worked. We saw them everyday. We began to include people who were not from the area, but somehow connected to the company: we contacted people in Morón, the city of Buenos Aires, La Plata, and Santiago del Estero.

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“When we returned to the in-person presence, we designed new workshops,” Pareira continues reality In April 2022 we set up the Better Connection program, whereby for two hours from Monday to Friday, elderly people do online activities: physical education stimulation, memory stimulation, another learning stimulation and remote monitoring. Keep going.

„We realized that since the program was already being implemented, we could reach more people and have other tools to give them access to the information they need on a daily basis. For example, getting an appointment at PAMI, going through a process at ANSES or getting tickets for movies,” says the organizational and social maturity specialist. .

For older people, lack of understanding of technology is a major barrier. „If they don’t learn, they can’t interact with their environment, and they depend on their children, their grandchildren,” says Barrera.

“I don’t want my grandson to come and do what I want. I want to know: I want to know how to send photos, I want to know how to get an appointment,” said Maria, an elderly elder who recently participated in a charity center group.

Los UN to support the elderly These include independence, participation, care, autonomy and dignity of the elderly. Pareira observes that what Maria demands is „freedom and dignity”.

But in addition, Barrera explains, “Digital literacy is not just about literacy, But innovating on a device that allows them to centralize access to the services they need the most, promotes easier ways to access functions and, above all, creates a community.”

To this end, the organization began designing the Big Links app, a way to directly access information related to the needs and issues of the elderly.

The application will be free of charge with useful information allowing access to health, social care and/or cultural services. It will take them to different virtual workshops and other free synchronous and asynchronous activities conducted by the Foundation.

The app Father Mario works with is designed so that older people can easily access information about workshops and practices (Image: Courtesy of Fundación Presbítero José Mario Pantaleo and intervention by Marisol Echarri)

New ways to socialize

Unwanted loneliness is one of the most common problems in people over 65 years of age. This is accompanied by difficulties in accessing information and the need to rehabilitate physical and cognitive functions that can be damaged by diseases with a higher incidence in the elderly. Lack of activities and interactions with others creates a more isolated circle.

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The application of the Presbítero José Mario Pantaleo Foundation seeks to expand assistance through the use of mobile phones, which the pandemic has positioned itself as a tool for communication between the elderly and their environment.

„We want to improve the quality of life of the elderly through a mobile app that allows access to relevant, easy-to-use information that encourages connection with one another, preventing major difficulties in aging,” says Pareira. Master’s Degree in Organization and Management of Social Services.

“Today, to access appointments and get tickets, none of the online sales platforms are senior-friendly. They do not have the necessary access criteria. For example, one of the things that happens to them is that they have to log in every time they log in,” he describes.

„We will all be old and they will need each other’s hand tomorrow. We are working for our future,” reflects the expert.

Physical activity workshops, such as Aquagym, are part of the services offered by Father Mario’s Mission. (Image: courtesy of Fundación Presbítero José Mario Pantaleo and intervention by Marisol Echarri)

An application designed from universal design

To build the application, the foundation was used XXII Biennial Prize of the Navarro Viola Foundation It became one of the four social organizations dedicated to childhood and old age. With this difference, the company will receive 2.5 million pesos to develop this initiative in the next year.

This application is designed for the elderly of Gonzalez Cadón and Vire del Pino, 30 kilometers from the city of Buenos Aires, where Father Mario’s mission carries out most of its activities.

According to the census in the region, about 12% of the population is above 60 years of age. 90% of them have retirement or pension income. A large part of the population earns low income with small family financial assistance. Although these relatives are usually in their elders’ lives, they have few daily hours to devote to their needs.

The development of the app – under universal design guidelines – aims to bridge the digital divide that exists among this age group. Along these lines, once the application is received, face-to-face training and reality For your use. „Our proposal is to implement it first in Gonzalez Caton and Virre del Pino, with useful information from these places and with training in the Foundation and three other institutions. But it can be extended further, because the information is on the Internet, it is dispersed,” explains Barreira, this work for the network of social organizations in La Matanza. Says belongs, where old people attend.

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Innovative approach

„The project – initial investment and then minimal maintenance cost – is innovative, because in principle no utilities are implemented in the territory. This allows them to access information easily and to a large number of people simultaneously and over time,” says Pareira. He adds: „The Processor „It provides a sense of belonging to the social structures that mediate Father Mario’s work and its applicability in the region.”

Barrera, who is in charge of the project, explains that the app’s design conforms to a series of stages. First, an inquiry will be implemented on recent applications for seniors, then seniors formed into expert groups and focus groups will be questioned on their components and applicability.

The most common problems that the app can solve are tracked, a minimum viable product is created, and then tested, fine-tuned, and launched on the platform for download and use.

Subsequently, training will be conducted to learn about its use in the community and senior centers.

Other awards

The Navarro Viola Foundation has already awarded Father Mario’s work in 2006 and 2017. In 2006 it differentiated its Connections project, in which seniors join the reading and writing process in the first cycle of primary school.

In 2017, they presented the Tell Me Your Story project, in which seniors accompany youth in their career decision-making process through the visibility and construction of positive role models who act as references at critical moments at the end of high school. and the invention of a profession.

This reference is part of the site solutionsAn alliance between Black River and network/action.

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