The Challenge of Social Innovation – Exploring Technology Enabled Care in Barcelona

Anna Majo
Anna Majó
Director of Digital Innovation, City Council of Barcelona

Last December, the Commissioner for Technology and Digital Innovation, the Area of ​​Social Rights of Barcelona City Council and EIPA (European Institute of Public Administration), held a one-day conference on ‘The Challenge of Social Innovation’ at their new i.Lab in Barcelona.

The event provided an opportunity for leading policy makers and academics to exchange various ideas and technological solutions to meet the social challenges of ageing population across housing, care and health services as part of the city’s implementation of ‘The Municipal Area of Social Rights’.

Anna Majó, Director of Digital Innovation of the City Council of Barcelona, ​​explained attendees have been invited to present various ideas and solutions for social challenges such as housing, care and services for the elderly or the impact of technology as an element generating inequalities.

Speakers included Dr. Joan Cabestany Moncusi of UPC, who gave the first presentation on the technological solutions that can be applied in the home care of older people. He was followed by Marta Juan Serra, Director of the Vincles BCN project, who presented on ‘the social superiors’, a municipal pilot project to reinforce the social relationships of older people who feel lonely and explore how to improve wellbeing through digital applications. She was followed by Jeremy Porteus, CEO of Housing Learning and Improvement Network, who highlighted examples of innovation in the UK. Finally, the results of the reflective workshop were given by Julio Calvo, of the Area of ​​Social Rights, Barcelona.

The Municipal Area of Social Rights

Julio Calvo talked about the Municipal Area of Social Rights, a project which aims to divide Barcelona into small zones (‘Social Superblocks’) or scalable neighborhoods that integrate the concept of a universal virtual or distributed care service at home, including adaptations to meet their functional and spatial needs.

The Challenge of Social Innovation - Exploring Technology Enabled Care in BarcelonaHe explained that almost 350,000 people ages 65 and older live in Barcelona and it is anticipated that before 2030 there will be around 375,000, nearing the 25% of the population. In Barcelona, there are 13,000 care placements in residential homes for the elderly, with a waiting list of over 6.000 people. One part of the elderly population will need more specialised in-home care and better access to suitable ‘care ready’ housing. And according to statistics, around 112,000 people in the city need assistance for their daily activity, 54,000 on a regular basis and 58,000 sporadically.

Key messages from the day

Some of the key messages arising from the i.lab were:

  • Regular and promote non-conventional housing (creativity yes, no ‘warehousing’)
  • Triple A: Accessible, Adaptable, Affordable
  • Multigenerational buildings / Solutions to combine the challenge of housing for young people with the loneliness of the elderly
  • Encouraging meetings between neighbours and support among communities (collaborative apps, sharing resources)
  • Adapted and accessible apartments according to occupier’s needs
  • Co-design and co-housing and change the mindset: Involvement of users in the solution.
  • Create a semi-public platform for social annuity. In return for housing with rehabilitation, social and health care services.
  • Measure the efficiency of homes also with data on quality of life and habitability.
  • Include a space for health and well-being in the home, including residential complexes with community services for the elderly
  • Studio spaces: possibility of hosting artists as a way of having a company and favoring cultural exchange (e.g. in Amsterdam)

Some ideas to solve the challenge of care and services for an ageing population:

  • Horizontal volunteering app (CSIC UAB) / volunteer groups in the neighborhood who undertake to visit the older people on a daily basis
  • A service that focuses on technological knowledge that turns time into something productive
  • Predictive algorithms to monitor lifestyle patterns
  • In-House IoT / ‘care ready’
  • Early and preventative intervention
  • Covering assistance needs with unemployed or young people
  • Realise existing technologies in the homes of the elderly and connect with new devices that facilitate the use of technology
  • On-line telecommunication services reducing physical attendance at home
  • Self-help communities of older people
  • Cover certain social and welfare needs of the elderly with groups like unemployed people, students
  • App + sensors that collect constant vital monitoring via Bluetooth (pulse, breathing, temperature, movements, cognitive) and cloud management with an IA system so that home help is already focused
  • Creation of trusted networks through a digital time bank / example of how the elderly can help groups of vulnerable minors (immigrants) with homework, to teach the language, etc.

Ideas to solve the challenge of digital inequality:

  • Inter-generational relationship
  • Mobile push services
  • Address the consequences of the digital divide
  • Reverse learning: Young people teaching older people digital competencies
  • Take advantage of talents of the elderly
  • Explore greater adoption of AI
  • Permanent learning: Public libraries as spaces for the creation of digital solutions to neighborhood challenges
  • Co-creation of technologies with older people

We look forward to following the work of the i.lab.

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