“Technology can be a useful tool but it doesn’t replace the institutions workers” – Cáritas Coimbra attended a conference organised by the Economic and Social Council

On June 6, Cáritas Coimbra participated as a speaker at the Conference “Demographic Challenges – Ageing”, organised by the Economic and Social Council and held at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Coimbra.

In the “Health and quality of life” panel, Carina Dantas, Director of the Innovation Department of Cáritas Coimbra and representative of the Ageing@Coimbra Consortium, participated in a debate / commentary on the topic, with António Cunha, Executive Director of the Automation Laboratory of Instituto Pedro Nunes, and Manuel Teixeira Veríssimo, Professor of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Coimbra and Coordinator of the Ageing@Coimbra Consortium, moderated by Alexandra Rodrigues, journalist of the journal Público.

During her participation in the debate, Cáritas Coimbra highlighted its progress in the field of social innovation, based on the needs felt on the ground, of the manifest inadequacy of the existing responses to the present needs of older people, since many of them remain alone at home during many hours, with the exception of the brief visits of the domiciliary support and they need other type of activities and greater human presence. Carina Dantas reinforced in her intervention that “In addition, when they need residential solutions, the waiting lists are long. In this sense, in recent years, Cáritas Coimbra has been exploring possible ways to bring more health and quality of life to people and communities”.

Still in her intervention, the Innovation Director highlighted the fact that technology is a useful tool that, however, does not replace the human presence and workers of the institutions who can speak, demonstrate empathy and provide affection to their users. Machines should only perform ancillary tasks, releasing people for tasks that only they can provide. “The big problem is the inadequacy of financing systems, which remain very closed, standardized and without flexibility, so they do not absorb innovation. The divisions between health and social, as well as other areas of tutelage, are also obstacles to appropriate solutions to the differences of each territory and community”, said Carina Dantas. “Many of the health complaints are often soul-pangs, really likely to improve when people are happy”. It is up to the social (and health) institutions to increase scientific studies and quantitative data to support the importance of these activities – aimed at leisure, family and community – for the well-being and health of the ageing population.

Following the participation of Cáritas Coimbra, António Cunha, Director of the IPN’s ALS emphasised that the institutions of the social and health sector gain in investing, as it is the case of Cáritas Coimbra, in innovation teams that think of long-term intervention strategies based on field knowledge.

This event came under the Cycle of Conferences dedicated to demographic challenges, and the first one addressed the issue of birth. Portugal is one of the oldest countries in Europe and in the world. Even if fertility levels turn to be higher than today, the country will continue to age. Therefore, we are facing an ineluctable trend, which leaves no one indifferent, both from an individual and a societal point of view. Diagnoses on the intensity and determinants of the demographic ageing process are abundant, as well as on some of the more direct effects of this trend, namely on health and social security systems.

For Cáritas Coimbra this has been a very present theme in its interventions, by coordinating various national and international projects in the context of demographic challenges, as well as coordinating and participating in several initiatives and networks. Cáritas Coimbra is a member of Ageing@Coimbra (European reference region for the AHA); is a founding member and Vice-President of the European Covenant on Demographic Change; Main Coordinator of the D4 group of the European Innovation Partnership for Active and Healthy Ageing; and Coordinator of the European Network Smart Healthy Age-friendly Environments and of the Portuguese Network on Smart, Healthy and Age-Friendly Environments.

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