Bringing digital support to Chile's elderly

Posted July 26, 2022
Chile elder support

UN agencies, government partners and the Chilean National Service for the Elderly (SENAMA) are helping to strengthen support networks for the elderly through a programme led by UNDP.

SENAMA

With the COVID-19 crisis disproportionately affecting certain vulnerable groups, one of the emerging lessons points to the need to strengthen social protection approaches to ensure the elderly are not left behind. In Chile, the elderly are expected to make up one-third of the population by 2050, but they are far from being a homogenous group.

This was laid bare during the first year of the pandemic, where there was a significant uptick in the number of calls received via Fono Mayor, a telephone line set up by the Government to provide information and support for the elderly, with requests from physical to psychosocial assistance.

The conversations signaled the importance of social interaction and networking in ensuring the well-being of the elderly, including for those needing care and others acting as caregivers. This was the motivation behind the NODO Project, a community-centric initiative in Chile that integrates a set of digital platforms, with the aim of activating and strengthening support networks for the elderly.

Supported by UNDP, the Chilean National Service for the Elderly (SENAMA), as well as other UN agencies and government partners, the project aims to reduce and eliminate barriers that prevent the elderly from participating in society and exercising their rights.

 “It is very important, especially in remote areas, to have networks. It is very difficult for an older woman in these territories to achieve anything if she does not have networks, or a bridge to institutions, other networks or organizations,” said Catalina Fuentes, a resident of San José de Maipo.

The NODO Project works in 12 rural and urban communities with a high elderly population. Whilst the project sought to take advantage of emerging technologies, also paramount to its success was the team of people  who met and talked with the elderly to better understand their needs. This ensured that the digital interventions were culturally appropriate and contextualized.

The project’s e-learning platform was informed by insights gathered throughout these local communities. It covers a range of topics with a knowledge repository based on the needs of the elderly, such as care support training and recommendations.

The materials are also available in multimedia formats. Specifically catering to people with disabilities, there is an option for deaf people to communicate directly with the National Service for People with Disabilities (SENADIS) through online sign language interpretation. This offers a virtual “face-to-face” space for interaction.

With the elderly often feeling excluded from society, social protection should include fostering a social support network, where they can share their stories, experiences and lessons. From getting in touch with a network of professionals who can provide guidance on care work, to accessing a network of care partner organizations, the Care Platform is another dedicated virtual space within the NODO Project.

“This platform will allow us, as caregivers, to communicate and help each other in caring for our elderly. I am proud to represent the caregivers who helped with the realization of this platform based on our experiences and vision of what we have learned in our day to day lives,” said Patricia Verdugo.

The project’s website also features NODO Series 60+, a set of publications that discuss the complex and diverse scenarios surrounding the elderly population in Chile from a sustainable development perspective. The elderly population in Chile is diverse. Some live in urban areas, while others reside in rural communities; some are physically active, while others are not; some receive home care, while others are caregivers themselves. These dynamics call for holistic social protection policies.

Through the NODO Project’s interconnected platforms, it is envisioned that the elderly will be able to access these digital spaces for support, attention, coordination and empowerment. The project received funding from the Sustainable Development Goals Fund, with support from implementation partners in the UN and Government of Chile.

This story was produced in cooperation with the UNDP Chief Digital Office. For more information contact soledad.gonzalez@undp.org