Age and disability can often bring with them isolation. If it is harder to move or if you are tired, unhappy or bored, you are likely to stay at home and become increasingly isolated. At the same time, family and friends tend to be dispersed. Age UK, Independent Age, MIND, and many other organisations recognise the problems caused by loneliness and isolation. In fact research from the Campaign to end Loneliness last year claimed that being lonely was as bad for health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
However, we are now at a time where tablet technology can reach almost everybody (in 2013, 83% households had an internet connection); is affordable (a functional tablet now costs £100 and the best are less than £400); is very easy to use and can genuinely help reduce isolation and boredom.
These case studies shows how technology helps reduce isolation and boredom, and shows that age is no barrier, and that technophobia can be overcome.
Mr S has heart disease. Recently his illness has made him too tired to get out at all. A previously active lay preacher, the boredom of doing nothing was making him miserable. His children gave him a subscription to Netflix. Stuck at home, he now watches films and series he likes, he rings his daughter and they can talk about the latest developments in Breaking Bad, and Sons of Anarchy (his favourites).
Mrs G is mostly housebound, following a bad stroke. She loves reading but can’t get out enough to get the books she wants. She has never used a computer, has no desire to have one. Her son gave her a kindle, and persuaded her to at least try it. It was a success. She hasn’t yet worked out how to buy e-books but her son buys them and puts them onto her kindle in Fife from his home in London.
A solicitor’s grandmother has dementia. Her grandfather (87) is her sole carer. He can’t go out on his own any more, as his wife can’t be left alone. His nearest family lives an hour away from him, and he doesn’t want to move home. His grandchildren bought him an ipad and, using it, he now facetimes his family and friends, so at least has someone to talk to.
Mrs L is a widow with only one child, and he lives in the USA. She has dementia and carers from Christies Care. Her son has given his mother an ipad. Although Mrs L can’t use it, her son facetimes her, the carer answers it, gives the ipad to Mrs L and she can talk to the son. The tablet also helps the son manage the house – two weeks ago the carer noticed damp on the ceiling. She took a photo, emailed it to the son, who could then make the decision of whether it needed a builder out fast to fix, or was bearable until he came over in a month.
Mr J has early dementia. He is still largely self-managing and doesn’t yet need any professional care. However, he takes warfarin. Because the doses change all the time, he can’t remember what he should take. His daughter skypes him every day at 6pm. He lays the pills out on the table, in front of the computer, and because the surgery has emailed the prescription to the daughter, she can tell her father which pills to take.
Mr S is 90, and very deaf. He lives alone and is too deaf to have a proper conversation on the telephone to his niece (his one surviving relation). He therefore emails her, and they have long email conversations. He is also a keen chess player but, because his friends are mostly dead, he doesn’t have anyone local to play chess with. So he plays online chess, for several hours a day.
Mrs B has arthritis in her hands. She is also a voracious reader. However, her arthritis has got so bad that she can’t turn the pages of a book. With her tablet she only has to tap the screen. She can now read again.
A tablet is light and easy to use, so there is no excuse for people not to take advantage of the internet. It also means that people who don’t have internet access, and who can’t get onto the web are not getting their wants and needs catered for in the way that internet users do.
Our view: we encourage all our clients to have internet access and to use that internet access to make their lives better. We issue tablets to those clients who are prepared and able to take advantage of them, either directly or indirectly. Is that enough?