Startup of­fers elderly an In­ter­net key to fam­ily ties

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE15 - By IS­ABELLE WES­SEL­INGH in Bucharest

Two grand­moth­ers mys­ti­fied by tablet com­put­ers have in­spired a French-Ro­ma­nian startup to de­velop an ap­pli­ca­tion and ser­vice to help the elderly stay in touch with their rel­a­tives through the In­ter­net.

The sys­tem— the work of a startup called Hu­bert — be­gan op­er­at­ing in the United States and in Europe on crowd­fund­ing web­site Indiegogo last month.

“Ev­ery­thing started af­ter one of my grand­moth­ers died in ahome­for de­pen­dent se­niors in France,” says Stephane Lu­con, a French­man who co-found­edHu­bert.

“I was liv­ing with my wife and chil­dren (around) 2,000 kilo­me­ters away from her, in Ro­ma­nia. I went to visit her when­ever I could but I would have liked her to be able to see her grand­chil­dren ev­ery­day via Skype or any video con­fer­ence ap­pli­ca­tion.”

But like­many oc­to­ge­nar­i­ans or older peo­ple, his grand­mother did not know how to use a tablet or a per­sonal com­puter.

A Pew Re­search Cen­ter re­port pub­lished in April showed that se­nior cit­i­zens in the US are lag­ging be­hind the over­all pop­u­la­tion in on­line us­age.

Only 37 per­cent of those above 80 go on­line, com­pared with 86 per­cent of the over­all US pop­u­la­tion who use the In­ter­net. The pic­ture is sim­i­lar in Europe.

Around the world, pop­u­la­tions are ag­ing quickly. The num­ber of peo­ple in their 80s will have al­most quadru­pled be­tween 2000 and 2050 to 395 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the UNWorldHealth Or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Many se­niors un­der­stand­ably have dif­fi­culty with dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tion, hav­ing spent most of their lives be­fore the In­ter­net was cre­ated.

Af­ter the death of one of his grand­moth­ers, Lu­con was de­ter­mined to help the other one ben­e­fit from video linkups. “I re­al­ized that many elderly peo­ple are in­tim­i­dated by the big num­ber of ap­pli­ca­tions on the tablet screen,” he says.

From his house in the Ro­ma­nian countryside, he worked for months on a newscreen launcher with the help of UK-based Ro­ma­nian de­signer, Pe­tre Ni­co­lescu.

His 87-year-old grand­moth­er­was­con­sulted on ev­ery step and asked for her opinion.

“I wanted to build a new in­ter­face so that she could see only one or two but­tons on her screen with the ap­pli­ca­tion she uses: Skype, games,” he says.

The re­sult is a sim­pli­fied screen on which all un­used ap­pli­ca­tions are hid­den.

But as tablets can still puz­zle new users, Lu­con and his team cre­ated a sup­port ser­vice that can re­motely con­trol the de­vice to fix prob­lems or in­stall newapps.

“Re­tail­ers usu­ally con­sider that the fam­ily is here to help the se­niors with thede­vice, but rel­a­tives of­ten do not have the knowl­edge or the time to do it,” Lu­con says. By press­ing a help but­tonon­their screen, users will be con­nected vo­cally to a real person for help.

The sup­port line will be ac­ces­si­ble for a ba­sic monthly sub­scrip­tion of $20.

Last year, US re­tailer Ama­zon added a “May­day” alarm but­ton to its Kin­dle tablets for live tech­ni­cal sup­port.

“A ma­jor dif­fer­ence with Ama­zonMay­day is that our in­ter­face can be used on any An­droid tablet,” Lu­con says.

Ini­tia­tives such as May­day or Hu­bert “help as they give a hu­man face which is more im­por­tant for the older gen­er­a­tion than the younger one who is com­fort­able Googling ques­tions”, says Caroli­naMi­lanesi, chief of Re­search of KAN­TAR World­panel Comtech Cell.

Hu­bert has cho­sen to base its re­search and devel­op­ment in France. The call cen­ter will be based in Ro­ma­nia, which has be­come a Euro­pean hub for IT sup­port.

“Help­ing se­niors to con­nect is not only an eco­nomic is­sue, it’s first and fore­most a so­cial is­sue as tech­nolo­gies can help less mo­bile peo­ple to main­tain so­cial con­nec­tions,” says Thomas Hus­son, an an­a­lyst at in­ter­na­tional IT sur­vey group For­rester Re­search.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.