Networking help for seniors

Verbundprojekt SONIA Soziale Inklusion durch technikgestützte Kommunikationsangebote im Stadt-Land-Vergleich
Foto: Ludmilla Parsyak, © Fraunhofer IAO


The SONIAnetz project aims to support professional and community-minded helpers in Kirchheim unter Teck

Fraunhofer IAO’s SONIA project already investigated how well communication-supporting technology can improve quality of life for the elderly. Building on that great success, the follow-up project SONIAnetz has been specially tailored for people in need and their relatives.

Launched three years ago, the SONIA joint project focused on using technology-supported communication offerings to improve the social inclusion of seniors in rural and urban areas. The project team cooperated closely with residents from the Rauner home for the elderly in Kirchheim unter Teck, Germany, to develop and test a suitable tablet interface. This SONIA platform creates a “room for exchange” that supports community sharing in real conditions, too.

SONIAnetz aims to support people in need of help and their care-giving relatives

Up to now, project participants were primarily senior citizens who still felt comfortable going into new territory. The two main motivations for these seniors were the urge to learn something new and the desire to make new contacts. “At the start we didn’t know each other at all; now we’ve made friends,” one participant explained. The prerequisite for participation was a willingness to be closely involved in the project, for instance by taking part in workshops.

Building on this work, the recently launched follow-up project SONIAnetz will now develop new ways to support people in need and their relatives. For this, professional structures such as counselling centers, social service centers and housing management have been networked with informal structures made up of community-minded helpers – for instance, members of the previous SONIA community. “A few members of the predecessor project have signed on as mentors for SONIAnetz to provide assistance to people in need and their relatives,” explains Petra Gaugisch, project manager and researcher at Fraunhofer IAO.

Communication, organization and networking

The SONIA platform has been developed further to digitally support communication, organization and networking. A user-friendly tablet-based application is set to enable seniors once again to actively participate in society, both virtually and in real life in their neighborhood. Soon, it will be available independent of device type and expanded with the “Care and support network” module, in order to be able to offer a comprehensive help network. The Blackboard successfully developed in the previous SONIA project will be used as the central information and exchange tool.

Funded by the State of Baden-Württemberg’s Ministry for Employment and Social Welfare, Family, Women and Seniors, SONIAnetz was launched in October 2015 and will run for three years. Further project partners include the Paul-Wilhelm von Keppler Foundation’s “Age Well” development center and Furtwangen University (HFU).