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Keywords

Community, loneliness, ICTs, e-social work

Abstract

Ensuring that individuals who exhibit difficulties or problems are able to stay in their family and community environments has been an issue of concern for governments and welfare states for several decades. Authorities now seek to reverse the impact of periods or years of institutionalization and concealment of a variety of personal and social realities.

It should be highlighted that two phenomena, in particular, have increased interest in helping to keep individuals in their homes and community. First, aging populations and increased life expectancy, and second, the possibilities afforded by Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). The aging population is a constant throughout the Western world. To date, ICT is a field that has been underexploited in Southern Europe and specifically in the case of Spain. Nevertheless, ICT is experiencing a boom and we believe it can shape and reshape professional, personal, and family practices, as well as public policies and program design in the near future.

In turn, the situation resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, which began in 2020, has led to moments of lockdown, curfews, and restrictions of movement, which in some cases have increased the isolation and loneliness of the elderly and those with health and mobility problems. Paradoxically, Covid-19 has also acted as a technology driver by increasing the use of social media, online shopping, and technologies such as video calls, video chats, etc., for personal, work, and educational activities.

In this article, we highlight developments from an ongoing research project based on a case study from a social action organization that responded to the crisis by providing and managing health, social, and technology services. The organization in question is the Spanish Red Cross, and, more specifically, we analyze the case of the Red Cross in Zaragoza, Spain.

This study aims to show the evolution of scenarios and tools employed to respond to user needs within a process of digital convergence facilitated by the use of interactive applications, based on “peer-to-peer” communication as a complementary strategy to the usual practice of social work, towards what could constitute a new context of work and intervention such as e-social work.

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