09 – Lifeline for those seeking companionship, engagement, assistance, and safety

Februar 29, 2024

The Lab

Udruga "VAL" Lasotovo

The challenge

Isolated elderly face growing loneliness. With younger generations gone, the elderly lack vital social connections. They are left over without food for soul and mind. To help improve their live, we need a solution that helps them connect with others, access important services, and stay safe.

 

The problem to be solved

In an increasingly digital age, the challenges of loneliness and isolation among elderly individuals living alone have become more pronounced. Recognizing this pressing need for connection and support, innovative solutions ideas like an app “VAL Solidarity” have emerged to potentially address these concerns head-on. 

Living conditions with near to no public transport and a challenging topography don’t allow to leave home and meet at public places. Often, even the last bar ceased to exist in the village years before, and church services take place fare away. The younger family members left the village for working and living elsewhere. 

Elderly and disabled people are “left over” without food for soul and mind. Under these conditions mental and physical health deteriorates more and more. People are trapped into a vicious circle.

The context

Lastovo Island, located in the Adriatic Sea approximately 65 nautical miles away from the Croatian mainland. With around 800 residents, many of whom are elderly, the island’s distance from mainland services makes it hard for people, especially the older ones, to access necessary facilities. 

The main problems leading to social isolation among the elderly on Lastovo Island are: 

  • Distance from Services: Lastovo’s location far from the mainland means elderly residents have trouble reaching healthcare, social services, and fun activities. It’s even harder for those who can’t move around easily due to limited transportation options. 
  • Declining Population: Lastovo has a small and aging population. This makes it difficult to set up programs or activities that cater to the needs of the elderly, leading to fewer chances for socializing and support. 
  • Safety Issues: Elderly people are more at risk of accidents or medical emergencies. But Lastovo’s limited resources mean it’s not easy to provide quick help during emergencies. 

Relevance

For the elderly, loneliness can lead to a decline in mental and physical well-being, impacting their ability to engage in daily activities and seek out services they may need. This can result in a smaller customer base for local businesses and less economic activity overall. Addressing social isolation among the elderly isn’t just about improving their quality of life, it’s also about ensuring the vitality of the local economy. By fostering a more connected community and providing opportunities for social engagement, businesses can thrive in an environment where everyone feels supported and engaged. Addressing the issue of elderly isolation on Lastovo Island isn’t just about benefiting the local community, it’s about finding solutions that can be applied in similar situations elsewhere. 

Many communities, especially those in remote areas, face similar challenges with social isolation among their elderly population. By developing strategies to promote social connection and support on Lastovo Island, we can create a blueprint that can be adapted and implemented in other communities facing similar issues. 

 

Prerequisites and boundary conditions

  • The app should be designed to work even when there’s no internet connection or when the connection is weak, like with 2G. This means you can still use its main features, like the SOS button, which can send alerts via SMS if needed. So, even if you’re offline or have limited connectivity, you can still access important features and stay safe. Example: the essential features of the device, such as the SOS button or a bracelet, should remain accessible even when there is limited connectivity. This means that the button should still be functional and able to trigger an alert, regardless of whether the device is connected to the internet or a cellular network. 
  • Consider the various devices older individuals may use and ensure compatibility.  
  • Simplify the process of getting started with the solution, offer training, and provide ongoing tech support to address any issues users may encounter. 

 

Possible solutions

To help improve the lives of the elderly on Lastovo Island, we need a plan that helps them connect with others, access important services, and stay safe. Including an SOS button in this plan can give elderly residents a way to quickly get help during emergencies, which will make them feel safer and more secure. 

At its core, “VAL Solidarity” digital innovation is more than just a solution; it’s a lifeline for those seeking companionship, engagement, and assistance in their daily lives. Divided into intuitive sections, the app offers a range of features carefully designed to cater to the unique needs of its users. 

  • One of the app’s primary functions is facilitating social interaction through video calls with fellow beneficiaries. This feature not only allows individuals to connect with others from the comfort of their homes but also fosters meaningful relationships that combat feelings of loneliness. 
  • Moreover, “VAL Solidarity” recognizes the importance of maintaining spiritual well-being by providing access to local Mass services through virtual platforms. This inclusion ensures that users can participate in religious practices and rituals, regardless of their physical location. 
  • Health monitoring is another crucial aspect of “VAL Solidarity”, with the app offering the capability to measure vital parameters such as blood pressure or blood sugar levels. By empowering users to track their health status conveniently, the app promotes proactive self-care and enhances overall well-being. 
  • Practical assistance is also readily available through features like the weekly meal planner and integration with local restaurants for food delivery services. These functionalities not only simplify meal planning but also ensure that users have access to nutritious meals without the hassle of cooking or grocery shopping. 
  • Furthermore, “VAL Solidarity” serves as a gateway to community engagement by connecting users with local volunteers and providing information about events and resources in their area. By fostering a sense of belonging and participation, the app helps combat social isolation and encourages active involvement in the community. 
  • One special feature it has is the SOS button. This button is like a safety switch. If something goes wrong and you need help fast, you just press it. It tells people you trust or even emergency services that you need urgent help. It also shares where you are so they can find you quickly. 

 

When someone taps the SOS button, it sends out an alert. This alert tells specific people or emergency services that help is needed right away. It also shares the person’s location so that help can find them fast. 

The SOS button is easy to find in the app. It’s made to be simple to use, especially in emergencies. This way, people can feel safer knowing that help is just a tap away. 

“VAL Solidarity” is more than just an app; it’s like a caring friend for elderly individuals and people with disabilities. It uses technology in a smart way to help in many ways. It’s not just about talking to others or getting health advice. It’s also about feeling safe and being actively connected to the community. 

So, with “VAL Solidarity”, you’re not just getting a friend to talk to or help with health stuff. You’re also getting peace of mind knowing that help is always close by if you ever need it. It’s like having a whole support system in your pocket, making life easier and safer for you. 

 

Preferred technologies

The technology that balances functionality, ease of use, and scalability while considering the specific needs and context of the elderly population on Lastovo Island. 

 

Excluded technologies

Costly, challenging to navigate. 

 

Existing technologies / system to integrate the solution

At Udruga Val, we use basic digital tools like MS Windows, MS Office. We like to keep things simple and affordable when it comes to choosing digital solutions. Whether we’re using cloud-based systems or ones that are right on our computers, we want them to be easy to use and not too expensive.  

Lastovo Island has multiple internet providers, offering good coverage in areas where people live. Plus, there are a few WiFi hotspots in public places around the island. This means that residents and visitors can easily get online and stay connected. 

 

Necessary interfaces

The application should be flexible and easy to adjust, so it can easily fit into bigger systems later.

 

What else do we need to know? 

The island of Lastovo, as a protected area as a nature park, can also derive benefits from the decarbonization effects through your solution, which aligns with one of the primary goals of our project.