It is amazing how many people regularly share the minutiae of their lives, via Twitter, Facebook etc, with fairly casual acquaintances and yet they cannot share family photos and messages with elderly parents who would really appreciate them. Building on Laura Robinson’s excellent blogpost on Friday, talking about the need for integrated care and joined-up thinking amongst professionals, this guest blog looks at this important further dimension of connectivity, reducing isolation in the community and helping people stay in touch. Stuart Arnott, Founder of Mindings, tells us how families can share news on a day-to-day basis, particularly where family members live at a distance from each other and, importantly for this series, including where the person has dementia…
In the Autumn of 2007, just as my wife and I discovered to our delight that we were going to have a baby, we discovered that my mother had cancer. Mum had less than a year to be a Granny, so we wanted to make the most of it.
To keep Mum’s spirits up I’d send her photographs in the post, from holidays snaps to pictures of our nursery decoration. But the geek in me (my background is in multimedia production) thought, “surely there’s a better way than this“! I was used to emailing pictures to friends or just uploading them to my Facebook page, but with my technology-shy parents that wasn’t really an option.
So, I bought one of the first wireless digital picture frames and gave it to Mum and Dad for Christmas. Despite its poor quality and very limited functionality, it enabled me to email photos to them.
On the day of the birth of my daughter I was able to email a photo of CJ, Mum’s new granddaughter, straight to the picture frame. I phoned Mum up, told her to switch the picture frame off and on again (the only way to see the latest picture) and moments later tears followed. I knew at that very moment that this was something really powerful, and if it could be easier to use it would be a wonderful blessing for families everywhere.
At around the same time my wife’s Grandmother, who lived in New York, developed Alzheimer’s. She had a large family, scattered across the US and the UK, including three great grandchildren. So, we bought her a digital picture frame and the family were tasked to daily send photos to it to bring the family closer to her.
One day we had a phone call from her live-in carer saying that she had to switch the frame off. Some days she be more confused than others and she’d look at the picture frame and not recognise the people – but she knew she should. It was making her aware that her memory was deteriorating and it upset her greatly.
Very quickly, though, we realised that all we need to do was caption the photos to give them context – who, where and when. There was no automatic way of doing this, we had to manually Photoshop the photos, but it was worth the effort. It worked a charm and it provided Gran with a great deal of joy, particularly because when family members phoned up they had things to talk about as she had seen pictures of, say, a great-grandchild’s birthday party.
This was something that needed to be shared, so, the Mindings journey began.
I teamed up with some great industry professionals who shared the vision of connecting the disconnected. We developed a service that not only enables you to send caption photos, but also, text messages, Facebook content, calendar reminders, and much more. Plus, we created a feedback loop so that senders would know that their photos and messages had been received. Not only can Mindings help people be better connect to their families, it can help people look after them too.
So, how do you get Mindings?
Mindings runs on inexpensive Android tablets, which neatly sit on a mantelpiece or bookshelf like a picture frame. It’s available as a free App which I invite you to Beta test by emailing me (and you can buy the tablets we use from our store).
However, many people have been saying to us, “can’t you just make it run on an ordinary computer – we bought Mum/Dad/Gran/Auntie/etc a computer/laptop/iPad and they never use it”.
The answer is “yes”, it’s called webMindings, a browser-based version you can run on anything with a web browser, and it’s available now by visiting our website. We even offer a month’s free so you can try it out.
Give Mindings a whirl, and I hope that it connects you to your family as well as it continues to connect me to mine.
Stu 😉 Stuart Arnott, Founder, Mindings
PS: Why “Mindings“? Well, “Minding” is actually a real word that my Scottish Granny used to use when being told off by my Mum for buying me yet another toy – “och, it’s just a wee Minding”. A Minding is “a small gift or token of goodwill, often of little or no value, given to the recipient simply to let them know they’re being thought of”. Quite.