Coneighbour is a service that matches citizens' interests/skills and community entities, such as local businesses, welfare groups, and hobby clubs to engage within the local community.

Yasuhiro Yamauchi
Deepu James
Prevent seniors' social isolation through early intervention on 50s citizens' life stages
How does Japan need to change its social structure in order to avoid the biggest inevitable problems of a super-aging society and depopulation, especially in local cities? Local cities in Japan need to allocate budgets primarily to social security and health care for the seniors, and this results in the deterioration of the city's infrastructure. Moreover, the social isolation of seniors has a significant impact on local social security and medical costs. As the number of socially isolated seniors increases, the deterioration of the entire region is accelerated. To stop this systematic negative loop for local communities, Coneighbour aims to intervene on 50s' citizens to prevent social isolation in the future and allow them to play a central role in local communities.

By 2040, half of the 1800 local governments in Japan will be unable to maintain their city functions due to urbanisation and aging, and will disappear. As a first hypothesis to solve this problem, it was essential that seniors over the age of 60 play a central role in solving local issues. However, seniors in rural areas are subject to harsh situations. In Japan, about 6.5 million seniors, one in five, live alone, and among these one million communicate only about once every two weeks. Their risk of death is 1.7 times higher than those who have conversations with the community. Therefore, the social isolation of seniors has a significant impact on the local social security and medical costs. It turns out that the social isolation of the seniors creates a systematic negative loop for local communities.


Social isolation does not start suddenly. Seniors gradually become isolated as they progress through their life stages. Their children leave their homes, they retire from working, lose their partners, start living alone, have pain in their bodies, and they start to withdraw and ultimately become socially isolated. Therefore, early intervention is essential to prevent social isolation. So, I decided to consider intervention for 50s' citizens to prevent social isolation in the future and play a central role in local communities. I interviewed ten Sakata city's citizens, three local welfare groups, and local councils. I found out that 50s' citizens want a loose connection with the local community based on their interests and skills. Furthermore, local communities also want to get acquainted with 50s' citizens for future involvement. When I realised that both citizens and local groups wanted a connection, the key insight that matching citizens with local groups would be a solution came up.


Coneighbour is a local SNS for adults to make citizens engage with the local community. After you register your interest and skills, we will suggest local groups that you would be interested in. You will find many opportunities in the local community through your hobbies, including local businesses, volunteering opporitunites, and public services. Just swipe right if you are interested and you will immediately get the message from the group and start a conversation. Just one swipe will make you join the local group with a welcome. Also, you can exchange your experiences, seek local business opportunities and see the public service's news. Here you can meet your neighbours, get recommendations for local services and learn about neighbourhood events. In addition, all the information on the region is collected and analysed by our dashboard. This makes it possible to provide the best service for the region based on the data.


In rural areas in Japan, such as Sakata city, where I have focused this project, 60% will be over the age of 50 in 2030. However, local communities are less connected than in the past, with more seniors becoming socially isolated. Therefore, public service costs represent a significant proportion of mutual help in the community. This results in local cities being financially challenging and ultimately make out a system that may collapse before 2040. To make the city sustainable in the future, making early intervention to 50s' citizens based on their interests/skills is essential to prevent seniors' social isolation and contribute to the city by using their abilities. Therefore, we create Coneighbour to match citizens' interests/skills and local community such as local businesses, welfare groups, and hobby clubs to engage in the local community. Coneighbour will transform community connections to increase mutual support and reduce public service proportion to make the region sustainable.


Among the members I tested was Togo town council member Naoki. He gave me feedback that he could propose to Congress to test Coneighbour in his town if I had an actual product. He is particularly interested in obtaining data on local users through Coneighbour. I would bring back these results to my company, NTTdata, and continue collaborating with council members to start demonstration experiments. The biggest challenge is how to engage citizens to Coneighbour. Therefore, I would do demonstration experiments in a very limited area in Togo town. Next, gather local group leaders and make them create groups on Coneighbour. Then, to increase the number of citizen users, I would collaborate with local supermarkets to give special offers to users who join Coneighbour. After setting KPIs for the user and group growth, I would inspect Coneighbour's dashboard and show how numbers are improving.

special thanks

Special thanks to all the Sakata city's local group and citizens who shared their life journeys with me, social designer Tomohiko Nakashima, Togo town council member Naoki Ishibashi, and my partner NTTData. And to my tutor David Eveleigh Evans for supporting and encouraging me all the time.

students involved on the project

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