Porto: Understanding the Vulnerable

One aspect of effectively co-creating solutions is to gather qualitative and quantitative data to shape an understanding of the wants, needs, and goals of the engaged social group.
Combining qualitative and quantitative data sets brings out a great level of insights into different understanding of the world, according to different markers such as race, gender, age, sexuality, regional living and upbringing, social class, religion, and more.
These markers can be defined according to the needs and purpose of the co-creation methods, as well as the goals, which are planned to be archived through engaging a certain community.
Collecting does not only help to understand the past and current state of a life experience but it also highlights where and for what reason challenges appeared and how these can be fixed in the future to create a proposed outcome and ensure a better quality of life.

Aging and Loneliness: A body full of wisdom, left in isolation.

The Association for Cerebral Palsy in Porto (APPC) in the country of Portugal is an organization that takes care of people, who are suffering from movement disorder, which makes it difficult for the affected person to coordinate their movement and muscle usage.
APPC accommodates patients within their facilities and employs social workers, psychologists, and care personnel to help and support their clients. Furthermore, the organization also gives homes to elderly people and supports their needs on their journey throughout old age.
When it comes to the educational and social facets of Porto, unfortunately, lots of people did not have the advantage to take part in higher learning and for the most part, lots of old people are unable to write or read. This also results in them not being able to catch up with the development of modern technology and being left behind. Having lived a life before the development of the internet has enriched them with so much experience in a pure life, whereas as they get older they are left in care homes without a connection to the real world outside their window.
Isolation and under-stimulation only lead to the increase of one thing: loneliness.
Being left to the devices of the caregivers as old people might be seen as unproductive to society due to their ability to contribute, The elderly are left in a state of aimlessness with no real prospects left, which can easily lead to depression and mental health issues.
It is therefore increasingly important to understand the needs of these vulnerable people as taking part in the normal flow of life might not be possible for them without the support and care of the ones around them.
Moreover, according to the lives they have lived, the knowledge they have gathered, and the interests they have, the elderly have individual needs and definitions of what it means for them to be happy and fulfilled.
Loneliness has become a current appearance in the daily routines of the elderly, cared for by APPC and together within a CommuniCity Project, digital engagement through the WeSolve platform has been used to collect data on how to combat the feeling of loneliness.

Digital Engagement and Old Age: Making the Impossible Possible

Due to the nature of aging and the location of growing up many of the elderly have never properly learned how to write and read, let alone how to use a digital device such as a smartphone.
Since most things have been shifted to the digital space through the invention of the internet, many aspects of life are done online – which means that people who have never learned to operate the digital space are otherwise left behind.
In the case of this project, it was of great importance to cooperate as much face-to-face conversation and direct communication as possible, which resulted in the WeSolve platform being used mainly as a tool for data collection.
We trained the caregivers on how to properly use the platform through guidance, which equipped them with the knowledge on how to engage effectively and efficiently while targeting directly the core audience.
The interactions would then happen between the caretaker and the elderly person.
Firstly, that resulted in better communication due to the inability of the elderly to use the platform themselves and secondly, the already established level of trust helped to understand the perspectives and needs quicker.

When using the engagement platform, demographic data such as age and gender are automatically attached to the filling out of surveys and other engagement practices. This means that according to the gender of the elderly, it became clear what specific experiences, wants, and needs different people to have.
By directing the engagement activities head-on toward the topic of loneliness, the collected data could be easily transcribed as it evolves only around that topic.
For that reason it is highly recommended, when engaging with a specific social group, to shape the engagement activities around the topic you want to find solutions for.
This resulted in an outcome of missing mental and physical stimulation, get-togethers with like-minded people, being able to share stories and activities, and more.
The collected data gave direct insights into how the elderly experienced loneliness and made it easier for psychologists to distinguish between emotional, social, situational, and chronic loneliness and foster fitting solutions for each type, which would increase the quality by decreasing the lonely feeling.

Even though digital engagement and co-creation are being seen as something so ordinary in the days of the internet, humanity should not forget about those who were born in a time before technology became what it is today.
By using the WeSolve platform as a tool for collecting, which creates outlines for engagement activities digitally that are performed on a manual level, groups such as elderly citizens are being incorporated into the process as their insights can provide wisdom, knowledge, and the power to change the world of tomorrow.

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