Paper long abstract:
Against the background of the demographic transition and the steady increase of the senior population in Germany we investigate in our research project "SONIA - social inclusion by communication devices in urban-rural comparison" (2013-2015) how the life of the elderly in rural areas can be made more autonomous with special interest on the enhancement of their social inclusion.
Methodologically, we apply qualitative research methods, combining semi-structured interviews with focus group discussions and document analysis.
Our approach raises, among others, the question how regional populations are enabled to care for each other. Care is seen here in a wider sense as practices of looking for, supporting and helping each other within a community.
In this respect, we analyze how information and communication technologies may be utilized to enrich human interaction in real space. We seek to illuminate the link between socio-technological innovations and emergence of solidarity networks. Is there a way to mutualize rural population and what are requirements and consequences?
In our perspective, technology is seen as a catalyst for social inclusion and solidarity. Ideally, virtual communication induces face-to-face contacts and interactions in real life. Based on the findings of our needs assessment, we aim to establish and probe the concept of a "space of exchange", that will be realized as a dedicated online platform for senior citizens.
Technological innovations in caring communities: New solidarities