increasing difficulty in maintaining
village life and infrastructure. At
the same time, the number of older
adults is increasing. Other than their
age, this population does not form a
homogeneous group. Some seniors are
active and largely autonomous, but
there is also an increasing number who
are dependent on care and support
services. The village is dependent
on volunteer associations, most of
whose members are older themselves.
Church communities are particularly
strongly represented. An important
lifeline is the community bus, driven
by volunteers. This is vital for religious
observance, since Sunday mass or other
masses will usually take place outside
one’s village—one priest has to lead
mass for seven villages in three chapels.
Digitization can be a solution to
support these people, but the use of
digital technology in Elsoff is possible
to only a limited extent, due to poorly
developed infrastructure and the
limited availability of a fast Internet
connection (fiberoptic as well as mobile
Internet). In addition, the restricted
availability of modern technology is
paralleled by little experience in, or
understanding of, technologies such as
smartphones and tablets, or missing
Internet access at home.
AS A BRIDGE TO SOCIETY
Since the church community is one of
the most important communities in
Elsoff, an opportunity existed, even
in the face of the existing challenges,
to enable older citizens to participate
socially in Sunday mass. With the
cooperation of local actors, a live-stream system for the transmission
of a Sunday mass was implemented
as a promising way to overcome these
issues, bring people into contact with
modern technologies, and foster
autonomy and social participation. A
church live-streaming system not only
offers meaningful everyday incentives
to use new technologies but also
reduces the distance for nonmobile or
physically handicapped people. For the
development and implementation of
the streaming service, two levels were
considered: hardware and software.
First, the system needed to be
easily transportable since it would be
used in different locations each week.
Second, the poor and highly variable
Internet signal meant that a solution
in Germany are confronted with
multilayered problems. Demographic
changes mean that young people
move away and older adults
predominate. This is compounded
by the lack of local suppliers and
public transportation, fewer pubs
and restaurants, a shortage of doctors
and religious officials, and limited
or nonexistent Internet connection.
Fewer priests and doctors, of
course, means that the workload
of those who are present goes up;
this is consequential for church
communities, which remain very
significant in rural life.
The village of Elsoff, in the district
Siegen-Wittgenstein, has seen a
decline in population from more than
900 in the 1960s to 600 in 2018.
Compounding the population decline
is a low population density of some 70
people per square kilometer.
The factors we mention above mean
Figure 1. Streaming box, camera, and wireless microphone.
Figure 2. 10-meter cable with Internet USB stick.
Figure 3. Streaming app interface in full screen on the smartphone.