By 2040, one in four Barcelona residents will be over 65. As people age, their social networks weaken, resulting in fewer human interactions. This not only reduces quality of life, but also creates a healthcare burden: lonely and isolated individuals are more likely to develop health complications. Elderly citizens want the same opportunities to meet new friends and discover new activities as younger generations. Their family and friends want a simple way to keep in touch and make sure their loved ones are being cared for.
The city created a digital app, “Vincles,” that connects seniors with each other and with their networks of friends, family members, neighbors, and professional care givers. Vincles reduces social isolation and health risks by helping users to connect more regularly in person and online. It provides access to a range of neighborhood activities such as coffee clubs, reading groups and cooking classes. Family members and care givers use the app to better understand what’s happening in the lives of their loved ones and coordinate support from different members of the “trust network.”
After working with elderly residents to test and refine their approach, Barcelona launched a citywide roll-out of Vincles in January 2017. The app is being used by over 1,000 seniors across Barcelona. The City plans to continue to grow the number of users while expanding the range of city services that elderly users can access through the app.
Feedback from users of the service has been very positive: 80% report better self-esteem, 70% extended their friendship network and 60% said their state of mind had improved. Participants were most excited about the opportunity the app provides to meet new people, participate in new activities, and were appreciative of the facilitators support in doing both. Testimonies from Vincles included the following:
‘I’ve made new friends since I connected to VinclesBCN’ – Amelia, age 78
‘I speak to my grandchildren more since I connected to VinclesBCN” – Antonio, age 85
‘I take part in more neighborhood activities since I connected to VinclesBCN – Manuel, age 82