Social Innovation to Prevent Gender Violence

Publications Articles

Social Innovation to Prevent Gender Violence

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During the year 2023, fifty-eight women and two minors died due to gender-based violence in Spain. How can we use social innovation to prevent and address this issue?

What is gender violence?

According to the United Nations, gender-based violence is “any act of violence based on the female sex that results in physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering to women, as well as threats of such acts […] or arbitrary deprivation of liberty […]”. This violence is rooted in unequal power relations between men and women and is structural.

In Spain, according to data from the Ministry of Equality, 1,245 women have been murdered by gender violence between January 2003 and February 2024. During the last month, more than eight thousand calls have been received on the victim assistance hotline (016). During the year 2023, fifty-eight women and two minors died due to gender-based violence in Spain.

Social services and gender violence

Demands for gender violence are diverse and involve different areas. Consequently, there are many professionals involved in the process. One of the main problems faced by victims is revictimization, which occurs when they have to explain the events they have experienced many times, to different professionals. Consequently, the feeling of vulnerability and helplessness is reinforced. For this reason, it is important that there is good coordination among professionals.

On the other hand, the role of social workers is crucial in the fight against gender violence. In this sense, preventive socialization is discussed. This concept refers to the acquisition of values and norms that prevent macho behaviors and favor equality values. Professional training is essential to ensure early intervention, as well as effective and respectful management of cases.

When addressing gender violence with victims, it is important to consider some aspects:

  • Listen without judgment. Do not hold the victim responsible for their situation and avoid compassion.
  • Do not overwhelm with excessive information or insist on intimate details of the aggression.
  • Respect the decisions of the victim and do not act without their consent. However, it is important to emphasize the possible risk situation in which they find themselves.
  • Accompany in the process, even if it is slow.
  • Inform about the available reporting channels without pressuring the victim to choose a specific path.

Social Innovation to Prevent Gender Violence

Social innovation is key in the field of prevention and management of gender violence cases, as new technologies, as well as new approaches, allow us to approach the problem in a more efficient and transformative way.

  • Empowerment of women. To combat gender violence, it is essential to carry out prevention strategies. In this sense, numerous organizations have promoted applications with information and resources to detect violence situations and be able to combat them. An example is SARA (UNDP), a free and confidential chat that guides and accompanies victims. There are also platforms aimed at promoting the safety of women in dangerous situations, such as the bSafe app. This tool allows sharing real-time location, recording videos and audios in alarm situations, and generating fake calls to deter potential aggressors.

  • Community involvement. Another key element is to generate links between the community to involve all actors in the eradication of discrimination. The MADRE project, in collaboration with Wangki Tangni, mobilized communities in Nicaragua to create joint action plans, through which groups identify problems and offer solutions to combat machismo in the region. There are also digital options that allow involving a large number of people in the prevention and elimination of these violences. In Gurgaon (Haryana, India), they have promoted the SafetiPin initiative, which promotes community collaboration through an application where users can send information about spaces and aspects of urban roads that can be potentially dangerous through maps. For example, street lighting, the absence of police presence in the area, and the low circulation of vehicles.

  • Intersectional perspective. Not all women experience violence in the same way. In addition to the gender variable, other aspects such as social class, race, or sexual orientation also affect. In Mexico, through a survey conducted by CIDIP and the Government of CDMX, the need to create specific materials for women with disabilities in situations of gender violence was seen. As a result, CIDIP created the App Morada, aimed at giving tools to these women to understand the specific discrimination they suffer and to ask for help if necessary.

  • Technological tools. Although technology has often been highlighted as an instrument that contributes to macho discrimination, for example, through cyberbullying, it also presents positive opportunities to combat this violence. Specifically, the blockchain system achieves registering materials with high protection that prevents them from being modified. This allows registering violent behaviors, with audio or image evidence, in an unalterable way. Therefore, they are valid documents for possible judicial processes. Similarly, artificial intelligence can be used to compare data on gender violence reports and detect repeating patterns. This has been done by the Complutense University of Madrid and the Ministry of the Interior, through a project that allows obtaining more accurate diagnoses and predicting cases of recidivism.

In conclusion, social innovation presents new ways to prevent and manage gender violence, a problem that continues to be present in our society and that requires the involvement of all sectors to be eradicated.

References

Diez caminos para prevenir la violencia contra las mujeres y las niñas | ONU Mujeres. (s. f.). ONU Mujeres. https://www.unwomen.org/es/noticias/articulo-explicativo/2023/11/diez-caminos-para-prevenir-la-violencia-contra-las-mujeres-y-las-ninas#:~:text=Diez%20caminos%20para%20prevenir%20la%20violencia%20contra%20las,8%20Empoderar%20a%20la%20juventud%20. . .%20M%C3%A1s%20elementos [15/04/24]

Elboj, C., & Ruiz Eugenio, L. (2010). TRABAJO SOCIAL Y PREVENCIÓN DE LA VIOLENCIA DE GÉNERO. Trabajo Social Global-Global Social Work, 1(2), 220–233. https://doi.org/10.30827/tsg-gsw.v1i2.912 [15/04/24]

Iniciativas contra la violencia de género. (s. f.). Instituto de las Mujeres. https://www.inmujeres.gob.es/imioweb/1_AreasTematicas/1_SocInfor/1_Iniciativas/4_ContraViolencia/ContraLaViolenciaDeGenero.pdf [15/04/24]

Juan Martín, M. D. (2017). Violencia de género y servicios sociales: análisis la aplicación del objetivo” violencia cero” desde los servicios sociales básicos. https://uvadoc.uva.es/bitstream/handle/10324/26723/TFG-G2506.pdf;sequence=1 [15/04/24]

Piedra-Cristobal, J., Rosa-Martín, J. J., & Muñoz-Domínguez, M. C. (2018). Intervención y prevención de la violencia de género: un acercamiento desde el trabajo social. Trabajo Social Global-Global Social Work, 8(14), 195–216. https://doi.org/10.30827/tsg-gsw.v8i14.6595 [15/04/24]

Pinedo, M. (2021, 2 septiembre). Matemáticas e inteligencia artificial contra el maltrato machista. El País. https://elpais.com/sociedad/2021-09-02/matematicas-e-inteligencia-artificial-contra-el-maltrato-machista.html [15/04/24]

Principales datos sobre violencia de género. (2024). Ministerio de Igualdad. https://violenciagenero.igualdad.gob.es/violenciaEnCifras/boletines/boletinMensual/2024/docs/Principales_datos_enero_2024.pdf [15/04/24]

Vegezzi, A. P., Vegezzi, A. P., & Vegezzi, A. P. (2020, 13 marzo). Lo que la revolución tecnológica puede hacer contra la violencia de género. El País. https://elpais.com/elpais/2020/03/10/planeta_futuro/1583861107_474286.html [15/04/24]

Articles

Robots for the treatment of children with ASD

Robots for the treatment of children with ASD

In recent years, the use of robots in the treatment of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has been brought to the table. What benefits does this type of therapy offer?
En aquest article, abordem propostes innovadores per combatre la soledat no desitjada

Innovative proposals to combat unwanted loneliness in the elderly

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Pycipedia, collaborative platform for social workers specialized in parenting with intellectual disabilities

Publications Bank of innovations

Pycipedia, collaborative platform for social workers specialized in parenting with intellectual disabilities

Research and Development Center for Health, Care, and Social Work in Linköping (FoU)

Pycipedia

Web platform for social workers specialized in supporting parents with intellectual disabilities

Parenting processes can be especially challenging for people with intellectual disabilities. Additionally, the number of social workers specialized in this intervention area is very limited, and in the case of rural or non-urban areas, geographical distance makes it difficult for professionals to share their experiences and methods.

Pycipedia is a platform that connects social workers, regardless of where they work, through a digital network, to provide assistance and enable them to improve their support tasks. This ensures more equitable attention throughout the territory, ensuring that all professionals have access to useful resources and training.

The tool allows social workers to create, navigate, edit, and share training materials to support families with intellectual disabilities in everyday situations. Resources include texts, videos, and images. Materials are categorized, such as child health or hygiene tasks. Pycipedia also offers a forum where professionals can share best practices and provide empirical results on the different methods they use.

Banc d’innovacions

Pycipedia, collaborative platform for social workers specialized in parenting with intellectual disabilities

Pycipedia, collaborative platform for social workers specialized in parenting with intellectual disabilities

Pycipedia is a web platform for social workers specialized in supporting parents with intellectual disabilities.
Mapathon UPC, a web platform that gathers geolocated points on a map

Mapathon UPC, a web platform that gathers geolocated points on a map

Mapathon UPC is an open web platform that allows for the collection of geolocated points on a map collaboratively.
AutisMIND, an application to stimulate the social cognition of children with ASD

AutisMIND, an application to stimulate the social cognition of children with ASD

AutisMIND is a mobile application that enhances the ability to empathize with others in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Digital Streetwork, social workers who assist young people through the Internet

Digital Streetwork, social workers who assist young people through the Internet

Digital Streetwork is an initiative that moves street work with youth to the Internet

Mapathon UPC, a web platform that gathers geolocated points on a map

Publications Bank of innovations

Mapathon UPC, a web platform that gathers geolocated points on a map

UPC

Mapathon UPC

An open web platform that allows for the collection of geolocated points on a map collaboratively

Mapathon UPC is a tool aimed at groups and collectives wishing to highlight and raise awareness of the impact of certain social issues or needs in specific locations through a map where they are geolocated. The information collection process is collaborative, involving social entities, public administration, and the UPC community, among others. Participants only need mobile phones or tablets with Android system, GPS, and Internet access to participate in the mapping.

Mapathon addresses various issues, from identifying architectural barriers hindering accessibility to points of risk for gender-based violence and areas of waste accumulation, among others. It also allows for a more positive focus by helping to identify resting places or safe spaces.

The duration of the data collection process typically ranges from one to two hours, although it can exceptionally last a week. Once the map is completed, it cannot be updated, serving as an «snapshot» of reality at a given time. Additionally, the platform generates a report that organizes the data and aids decision-making.

Banc d’innovacions

Pycipedia, collaborative platform for social workers specialized in parenting with intellectual disabilities

Pycipedia, collaborative platform for social workers specialized in parenting with intellectual disabilities

Pycipedia is a web platform for social workers specialized in supporting parents with intellectual disabilities.
Mapathon UPC, a web platform that gathers geolocated points on a map

Mapathon UPC, a web platform that gathers geolocated points on a map

Mapathon UPC is an open web platform that allows for the collection of geolocated points on a map collaboratively.
AutisMIND, an application to stimulate the social cognition of children with ASD

AutisMIND, an application to stimulate the social cognition of children with ASD

AutisMIND is a mobile application that enhances the ability to empathize with others in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Digital Streetwork, social workers who assist young people through the Internet

Digital Streetwork, social workers who assist young people through the Internet

Digital Streetwork is an initiative that moves street work with youth to the Internet

AutisMIND, an application to stimulate the social cognition of children with ASD

Publications Bank of innovations

AutisMIND, an application to stimulate the social cognition of children with ASD

IDAPP MIND SL

AutisMIND

The tool enhances the ability to empathize with others in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

There are more and more experiences and studies endorsing that technology is a particularly useful resource to support therapeutic and learning processes in children with ASD. Whether through robotics or specialized computer programs, research is showing the benefits of this approach.

AutisMIND is a mobile application that supports families and professionals in working on the development of social thinking and theory of mind in children with ASD, that is, the ability of individuals to be aware of the feelings, desires, and beliefs of others when acting.

The AutisMIND application addresses ten different aspects of socio-cognitive development with six levels of difficulty and a total of over a thousand interactive and playful exercises. Some of the topics it covers include interpreting emotions in context, anticipating actions, physical sensations, and symbolism.

The platform presents learning in a simple and dynamic way. On one hand, it uses sharp images with simple outlines that avoid overstimulating the child. On the other hand, it includes visual reinforcements that enhance the interest, attention, and motivation of the user. The functions are adaptable to the needs of each person, and statistics allow evaluating progress and achieved milestones.

Banc d’innovacions

Pycipedia, collaborative platform for social workers specialized in parenting with intellectual disabilities

Pycipedia, collaborative platform for social workers specialized in parenting with intellectual disabilities

Pycipedia is a web platform for social workers specialized in supporting parents with intellectual disabilities.
Mapathon UPC, a web platform that gathers geolocated points on a map

Mapathon UPC, a web platform that gathers geolocated points on a map

Mapathon UPC is an open web platform that allows for the collection of geolocated points on a map collaboratively.
AutisMIND, an application to stimulate the social cognition of children with ASD

AutisMIND, an application to stimulate the social cognition of children with ASD

AutisMIND is a mobile application that enhances the ability to empathize with others in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Digital Streetwork, social workers who assist young people through the Internet

Digital Streetwork, social workers who assist young people through the Internet

Digital Streetwork is an initiative that moves street work with youth to the Internet

Digital Streetwork, social workers who assist young people through the Internet

Publications Bank of innovations

Digital Streetwork, social workers who assist young people through the Internet

Bavarian Youth Council

Digital Streetwork

Initiative that moves street work with youth to the Internet

Digital Streetwork is a project aimed at individuals between 14 and 27 years old, in which a team of specialists work with youth through chats, social networks, platforms, and phone calls. Some of these spaces include Instagram, Discord, and Reddit. The main objective is to support them in areas such as mental health, school, work, and interpersonal relationships.

Social workers are actively present online and reach out to young people who show a need for support through messages and posts. If they do not wish to establish communication, the conversation stops. Similarly, the workers can be contacted by users who require their help. The program consists of fourteen professionals, two for each local government in Bavaria.

The platform is free and anonymous. Digital workers maintain the confidentiality of conversations and receive training in online counseling and crisis management. In case they cannot address an issue, the professionals connect the youth with specialized organizations.

Banc d’innovacions

Pycipedia, collaborative platform for social workers specialized in parenting with intellectual disabilities

Pycipedia, collaborative platform for social workers specialized in parenting with intellectual disabilities

Pycipedia is a web platform for social workers specialized in supporting parents with intellectual disabilities.
Mapathon UPC, a web platform that gathers geolocated points on a map

Mapathon UPC, a web platform that gathers geolocated points on a map

Mapathon UPC is an open web platform that allows for the collection of geolocated points on a map collaboratively.
AutisMIND, an application to stimulate the social cognition of children with ASD

AutisMIND, an application to stimulate the social cognition of children with ASD

AutisMIND is a mobile application that enhances the ability to empathize with others in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Digital Streetwork, social workers who assist young people through the Internet

Digital Streetwork, social workers who assist young people through the Internet

Digital Streetwork is an initiative that moves street work with youth to the Internet

Robots for the treatment of children with ASD

Publications Articles

Robots for the treatment of children with ASD

,

In recent years, the use of robots in the treatment of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has been brought to the table. What benefits does this type of therapy offer?

What is ASD?

The concept of ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) emerged in 2013 when the American Psychiatric Association (APA) unified autism and Asperger’s syndrome under a single diagnosis, considering both conditions shared very similar traits. According to this categorization, ASD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that mainly affects communication and social interaction, characterized by the presence of very rigid thought patterns. Some examples include focus on interests, deficits in emotional expression, and problems with nonverbal expression. The first signs can be observed in very early stages of individual development, between the first and third year of life.

Another peculiarity of ASD is the diversity of ways in which it can manifest. This is why the concept of a spectrum is used. Each person expresses difficulties in communication, social interaction, and cognitive rigidity differently.

Robots for children with ASD

In recent years, numerous scientific studies, such as the one conducted by the University of the Balearic Islands, have investigated the use of robots to support the development of the learning process in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The conclusions suggest that the predictable and consistent interactions of robots make them feel comfortable, as individuals with ASD tend to have a strong aversion to unpredictability. Additionally, robots are capable of generating motivation to carry out tasks and activities, while also helping children engage in social interactions that may otherwise be threatening in other contexts.

Experts emphasize the importance of designing robots with highly personalized programming that can address the needs of each child. However, they warn that the robot should not be conceived as a teacher or a social worker, but rather as a support tool. In this sense, it should not be an end in itself, but rather the aim should be for the relationship between the child and the robot to serve as a starting point for reinforcing the child’s sociability.

Benefits of using robots for children with ASD

Some of the benefits of this type of therapy are:

  • Improves communication skills and expression of emotions. The robot encourages the child’s participation through interactive communication, with visual aids, voice synthesis, and programmed instructions. This enhances the ability to express emotions and empathize with others. Additionally, it creates a comfortable and non-judgmental space where children can develop their skills.
  • Facilitates social interaction. The security provided by a robot, through controlled repetitions, allows for more effective interaction. Imitation, turn-taking, and eye contact simulate real-life interactions that teach appropriate responses and gestures for different situations. They can also be useful as mediators and objects of shared attention with adults and peers. The ultimate goal is for children to use all this knowledge in interactions with humans.
  • Provides routine. Predictability and routine establish coherent behavior patterns that provide security and stability for children with ASD. This reduces crises and anxiety.
  • Promotes play and learning. Often, children with autism have difficulties playing and learning. Robots are capable of adapting to the child’s specific interests to program educational games. Thus, learning becomes a more fun and effective task.
  • Simplifies the learning process. Interaction with the robot is simple and helps simplify the learning process. Similarly, it avoids information overload that could overwhelm the child.

Types of support robots for children with ASD

Currently, there are different types of robots. Although each of them has its specificities and its scope of action, in broad strokes we can distinguish them based on their objective, that is, the way they provide support to children with ASD. Thus, we find three classifications:

  • Social robots. Thinking androids to interact with children with ASD, with conversations, signals, or expression of emotions.
  • Educational robots. Tools that aid during the children’s learning process, using attractive tools to teach different subjects and skills in an organized manner.
  • Assistive robots. Robots that provide support in everyday activities. This way, they can reinforce their confidence and independence. For example, with activities such as dressing, brushing teeth, or organizing themselves.

Some examples of robots for children with ASD

Over the past few years, there has been a significant increase in the use of support robots for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, accompanied by a rise in research on this practice and its benefits. Below, we outline some significant initiatives in this field:

  • AURORA. In the late nineties, Kerstin Dautenhahn (University of Reading, England) carried out a pioneering work in the field of robots and autism. The AURORA project aimed to enable children with autism to use a mobile autonomous robot to take initiatives and engage in various actions. According to Dautenhahn, “repetitive behavior can be interpreted as a way to escape from the overstimulation, visual or auditory, that many people with autism experience.” For this reason, a robot easily programmable to perform repetitive and predictable movements can establish “a link between the child and the surrounding world.
  • Aisoy 1. Another example is Aisoy 1, a robot capable of recognizing the person with whom it interacts and simulating emotions. Although initially not designed to help children with autism, a study by the MIT Media Lab used the model for this purpose, with a positive result.
  • MILO. The first humanoid robot with facial expressions arrived in Spain in 2022, under the name MILO. It is a model that the Polytechnic University of Cartagena (UPCT) purchased from the American company RoboKind. The academic institution acquired it without configuration in order to be able to program it with its own protocol that addresses the emotions and reactions of the child during interaction with the robot. The main objective is to reduce the stress and pressure of children with ASD during exchanges with other people, while training them with the most predictable and simple interactions of the robot. MILO measures 60 cm, has a human-like toy-shaped face, and is capable of expressing emotions through smiles and grimaces, among others.

In conclusion, the use of robots in children with ASD allows for improvement in their social interaction, thanks to the ability to perform repetitive and predictable actions. This possibility, along with the customization of the device, makes the robot an innovative tool that brings new intervention methods to the table in this field.

References

¿Qué es el TEA?, EspacioAutismo. Available in: https://telos.fundaciontelefonica.com/la-cofa/robots-sociales-que-ayudan-a-abrirse-al-mundo-al-nino-autista/ [12/03/24] 

Programación de Robots para mejorar la atención terapéutica de niños con Trastornos Generalizados del Desarrollo (TGD), Diego Paracuellos de los Santos. Universitat Politècnica de València. Available in: https://riunet.upv.es/bitstream/handle/10251/91794/PARACUELLOS%20-%20Programaci%C3%B3n%20de%20Robots%20para%20mejorar%20la%20atenci%C3%B3n%20terapeutica%20de%20ni%C3%B1os%20con%20Trastornos….pdf?sequence=1 [12/03/24] 

Robots sociales que ayudan al niño autista a abrirse al mundo, Pablo Rodríguez Canfranc. Telos (Fundación Telefónica). Available in: https://telos.fundaciontelefonica.com/la-cofa/robots-sociales-que-ayudan-a-abrirse-al-mundo-al-nino-autista/ [12/03/24] 

Robots para autismo: ¿el futuro de una terapia eficaz de ayuda?, Autismo En Vivo. Available in: https://www.autismovivo.org/post/robots-para-autismo-el-futuro-de-una-terapia-eficaz-de-ayuda [12/03/24] 

El robot social de Elche que se cruzó en Kansas con un niño autista, Ana Hernando. SINC. Available in: https://www.agenciasinc.es/Reportajes/El-robot-social-de-Elche-que-se-cruzo-en-Kansas-con-un-nino-autista [12/03/24] 

Así es Milo, el primer robot con emociones que interactúa con el autismo y que ya está en Cartagena, Jorge García Badía. El Español. Available in: https://www.elespanol.com/omicrono/tecnologia/20220713/mylo-primer-robot-emociones-interactua-autismo-cartagena/687431519_0.html [12/03/24] 

Robot como tratamiento para niños con autismo, Jessica Davó García. El mundo del autismo. Available in: https://www.elmundodelautismo.es/el-robot-como-tratamiento-para-ninos-con-autismo/ [12/03/24] 

Use of technology in interventions for Children with Autism, Tina R. Goldsmith, Lina A. LeBlanc. APA PsycNet. Available in: https://psycnet.apa.org/fulltext/2014-52005-004.html [12/03/24] 

Robots sociales como promotores de la comunicación en los Trastornos del Espectro Autista (TEA), Virginia Pinel, Laura Aguiló Rendón, Daniel Adrover-Roig. Letras de Hoje. Available in: https://www.scielo.br/j/lh/a/bgNcrznydKySBCKJPtyW7HG/# [18/03/2024] 

Articles

Robots for the treatment of children with ASD

Robots for the treatment of children with ASD

In recent years, the use of robots in the treatment of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has been brought to the table. What benefits does this type of therapy offer?
En aquest article, abordem propostes innovadores per combatre la soledat no desitjada

Innovative proposals to combat unwanted loneliness in the elderly

Unwanted loneliness is a problem that has a particularly relevant impact on the elderly population. How should it be addressed? What innovative tools can be promoted from social services to reverse this feeling?
Desinstitucionalización y vida en comunidad de las personas con discapacidad

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MetroSolutions

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Digitization opens up new opportunities for people’s well-being, while at the same time generating new risks of inequality. (Toni Codina, International Congress of Metropolitan Solutions, September 2022)

BRUS, accompaniment to young people who live in families with situations of drug addiction

Publications Bank of innovations

BRUS, accompaniment to young people who live in families with situations of drug addiction

Center for Digital Paedagogik (CfDP)

BRUS

Program that seeks to break the taboo of addictions in families

BRUS is an initiative aimed at young people up to 24 years old who live in families affected by alcohol and drug addiction. The primary objective is to break the taboo surrounding these issues through in-person meetings and an anonymous chat service. Additionally, the program encourages young individuals to focus on their own needs rather than taking responsibility for situations they cannot control.

The online chat provides access to individuals who may initially be hesitant about seeking face-to-face treatment or are unable to physically attend a center. This virtual format allows vulnerable individuals to express their experiences, regardless of their location. Furthermore, the online platform enables safer and more confident self-expression, allowing them to articulate their feelings more effectively.

Users can choose whether they want to maintain continuity with the same therapist across multiple sessions or start anew each time and switch therapists. BRUS also facilitates communication for young people who have completed the therapeutic process but wish to stay connected with the center.

Banc d’innovacions

Pycipedia, collaborative platform for social workers specialized in parenting with intellectual disabilities

Pycipedia, collaborative platform for social workers specialized in parenting with intellectual disabilities

Pycipedia is a web platform for social workers specialized in supporting parents with intellectual disabilities.
Mapathon UPC, a web platform that gathers geolocated points on a map

Mapathon UPC, a web platform that gathers geolocated points on a map

Mapathon UPC is an open web platform that allows for the collection of geolocated points on a map collaboratively.
AutisMIND, an application to stimulate the social cognition of children with ASD

AutisMIND, an application to stimulate the social cognition of children with ASD

AutisMIND is a mobile application that enhances the ability to empathize with others in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Digital Streetwork, social workers who assist young people through the Internet

Digital Streetwork, social workers who assist young people through the Internet

Digital Streetwork is an initiative that moves street work with youth to the Internet

App Morada, support against gender-based violence for women with disability

Publications Bank of innovations

App Morada, support against gender-based violence for women with disability

CIDIP

App Morada

Application that helps and guides women with disability and victims of gender-based violence

App Morada is a free platform, functioning as both an app and a website, aimed at providing support to women with disability who have experienced situations of violence.

It offers information to understand gender-based violence and tools to address this issue. Additionally, it provides contacts for institutions and civil society organizations working in this field, as well as direct access to emergency numbers. All content is accessible in braille, in easy-to-read format, and in Mexican Sign Language (LSM).

Furthermore, it allows the recognition of situations of violence through a test and offers assistance and contacts to receive support. The content is developed in collaboration with the National Association of Interpreters and women experts in gender and disability.

Banc d’innovacions

Pycipedia, collaborative platform for social workers specialized in parenting with intellectual disabilities

Pycipedia, collaborative platform for social workers specialized in parenting with intellectual disabilities

Pycipedia is a web platform for social workers specialized in supporting parents with intellectual disabilities.
Mapathon UPC, a web platform that gathers geolocated points on a map

Mapathon UPC, a web platform that gathers geolocated points on a map

Mapathon UPC is an open web platform that allows for the collection of geolocated points on a map collaboratively.
AutisMIND, an application to stimulate the social cognition of children with ASD

AutisMIND, an application to stimulate the social cognition of children with ASD

AutisMIND is a mobile application that enhances the ability to empathize with others in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Digital Streetwork, social workers who assist young people through the Internet

Digital Streetwork, social workers who assist young people through the Internet

Digital Streetwork is an initiative that moves street work with youth to the Internet

Nagaya Tower, an intergenerational building to combat unwanted loneliness

Publications Bank of innovations

Nagaya Tower, an intergenerational building to combat unwanted loneliness

Nagaya Tower, THEM

Nagaya Tower

Community building that connects people of different generations to combat the feeling of loneliness

The Nagaya Tower has six floors and is designed in a V-shape to encourage residents to see each other when entering and leaving their homes. Additionally, the exterior balconies have no partitions. This way, homes are connected. On each floor, there are communal dining rooms and other spaces for interaction, such as areas for recreational activities or elevated gardens. All of this facilitates neighborly communication in daily life, although preserving each person’s personal space is also sought.

In this community estate, the majority of residents are over 70 years old, but there are also other generations. Younger residents receive rent discounts if they get involved in common tasks like changing light bulbs, moving furniture, or taking out the trash. Elderly residents place a magnet on the door of their home when leaving the residence so others are aware. Additionally, people requiring vital support can receive services in the same building. Furthermore, there is a room where adoptive families raise children who cannot live with their guardians.

This initiative aims to alleviate the feeling of unwanted loneliness, a phenomenon especially prevalent among the elderly and with a particular prevalence in significantly aging societies like Japan.

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Innovative proposals to combat unwanted loneliness in the elderly

Publications Articles

Innovative proposals to combat unwanted loneliness in the elderly

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En aquest article, abordem propostes innovadores per combatre la soledat no desitjada

Unwanted loneliness is a problem that has a particularly relevant impact on the elderly population. How should it be addressed? What innovative tools can be promoted from social services to reverse this feeling?

What is unwanted loneliness?

Unwanted loneliness is a subjective and complex phenomenon that occurs when people feel that their relationships are not satisfactory. There is a mismatch between real and desired relationships, either in terms of quantity or quality. Although it is a phenomenon that can occur at any age, it is more commonly present among the elderly. According to the spanish State Observatory of Unwanted Loneliness, this feeling has individual costs (mental and physical health, satisfaction of vital needs, relationship with the environment…) and social costs (impact on health systems and drug consumption).

This article discusses the emerging opportunities that arise from technology and novel approaches in addressing involuntary loneliness, providing innovative tools for professionals in social services and citizen support.

Factors influencing unwanted loneliness in older adults

According to the guide Detecting loneliness during aging, commissioned by the Loneliness Observatory of the organization Friends of the Elderly, it is necessary to pay attention to different areas to understand the risk factors:

  • Sociodemographic factors: gender, age, socioeconomic status, place of residence. Being female, having low income levels, and living in an inaccessible environment are factors that increase the risk of experiencing loneliness.
  • Health and personal autonomy: self-perceived health, mobility difficulties, deterioration of sensory capacities. Loss of autonomy and the accumulation of diseases are risk indicators.
  • Psychological and personality factors: depression, low mental health and self-esteem, unhealthy behaviors…
  • Interaction and participation: household composition, social network, quantity and quality of social relationships, level of social participation, social support…

The report Preventing and alleviating loneliness in older adults (Caritas) points out that there are situations of greater vulnerability, such as the death of a partner or other family members, retirement, and moving. On the other hand, the social conception of care for older people, which often focuses on physical needs but overlooks the importance of comprehensive care and psychological aspects, can worsen situations of unwanted loneliness.

How to address situations of unwanted loneliness?

The Barcelona City Council, in the Guide for the prevention, detection, and support of elderly people in situations of loneliness, recommends several points to follow:

  • Firstly, it is important to pay attention to indirect verbalizations, as they can be a source of information about the feeling of loneliness.
  • It is also relevant to know the family or cohabitation situation and build a relational map of the person. This will allow weaving alliances to reduce this feeling.
  • Similarly, it is necessary to know what their interests and preferences are, and thus collectively seek personalized alternatives that adapt to each individual.
  • On the other hand, the report highlights the importance of promoting a vision of relationships that contributes to reducing the guilt that family members may feel in the face of loneliness. On many occasions, when the person expresses this feeling, people in their environment feel responsible. It is important to understand that someone can feel lonely even when surrounded by people, as it is a subjective feeling and families cannot always alleviate it.

The Friends of the Elderly association emphasizes that it is key not to promote self-perception of fragility, as it promotes isolation. It is also necessary to avoid using infantilizing and judgmental language. Additionally, it emphasizes the relationship between the social perception of loneliness and the personal experience of the feeling. To break negative stereotypes, it is necessary to create an empowering narrative that reverses discrimination.

The organization suggests five lines of action:

  1. Recognize: Professionals’ perspective is crucial to identify situations of loneliness.
  2. Understand: It is important to understand the phenomenon and its causes to have common starting points.
  3. Consider: The subjective nature of unwanted loneliness, the diversity in each case, and the existing stigma in our sociocultural context should be taken into account. Risk factors should also be known.
  4. Discover: Communication is a key tool to detect the feeling of loneliness. The guide proposes paying attention to silences and expression rhythms, establishing active listening, and relying on other trusted agents in the person’s environment.
  5. Act: Any solution must be centered on the individual and foster empowerment.

Innovative proposals:

  • Digital meeting spaces. Organizing collective activities and events allows building new connections with people who share common interests, which can reverse the feeling of loneliness. Through social media and the internet, individuals can access online meetings, overcoming mobility, transportation, or access issues. It is important to work to overcome the digital gap that exists in a large part of the elderly population. An example is the program Proyectando vidas, uniendo almas, aimed at older adults living in rural towns in Castilla y León. The project aims to alleviate this feeling through telecommuting group activities. Similarly, the British initiative The Silver Line offers a free telephone contact for people over 55, available 24 hours a day. The staff handling the calls provide listening, advice, and referrals to other organizations.
  • Robots and voice assistants. Technological advances of the last decade have also been introduced in social services and citizen care. Some organizations have experimented with robots and voice assistants, which complement the work of professionals. An example is the Intelligent Robotic Assistant (ARI), designed by the Saltó Group, which accompanies older adults living in Barcelona.
  • Creating support networks from new technologies. Others initiatives like Vincles (iSocial Foundation) use technological systems to collect standardized territorial information to detect loneliness situations in an updated, immediate, and truthful manner. The project is inspired by Auzosare, an innovative program that combines technology, community activation, and socio-educational intervention to prevent and improve the quality of life of people in fragile situations of loneliness.
  • Applications to generate intergenerational exchanges. One way to include older adults in the community is to involve younger generations, who can be good allies in contributing to social inclusion. In Bilbao, the association Kuvu connects people of different generations to share housing and mutual company. Another example is the Vollpension Generationencafé. This German initiative operates through cafes staffed voluntarily by retirees, who share time and conversations with the people attending the venue. Unlike traditional intergenerational volunteerism, it’s not the young who volunteer and visit the elderly, but rather the elderly who actively foster their social integration. This way, it promotes feelings of fulfillment, satisfaction, and community service.
  • Preventive emotional management tools: To prevent the feeling of loneliness, some initiatives work to offer emotional management tools, helping individuals understand their feelings and avoid potential mental health problems. The Bakardadeak Eskola (School of Solitudes) contributes to demystifying myths and fears about loneliness to change society’s perception of this phenomenon.

References

[1] Detecting loneliness during aging, Observatorio de la Soledad. Available at: https://amigosdelosmayores.org/es/detectar-la-soledad-durante-envejecimiento-una-guia [29/01/24]

[2] Preventing and alleviating loneliness in older people, Cáritas. Available at: https://www.caritas.es/main-files/uploads/2021/02/DOC-TRAB-9-INTERIOR_3.pdf [29/01/24]

[3] Guide for the prevention, detection, and support of older adults in situations of loneliness, Barcelona City Council. Available at: https://bcnroc.ajuntament.barcelona.cat/jspui/bitstream/11703/130451/1/Soledad_GuiaPersonasMayores_ES.pdf [29/01/24]

[4] Unwanted loneliness, Observatorio Estatal de la Soledad No Deseada (SoledadES). Available at: https://www.soledades.es/la-soledad-no-deseada [29/01/24]

[5] Inspiration, Observatorio Estatal de la Soledad No Deseada (SoledadES). Available at: https://www.soledades.es/inspiracion [29/01/24]

[6] Resources, Observatorio Estatal de la Soledad No Deseada (SoledadES). Available at: https://www.soledades.es/recursos [29/01/24]

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