There’s a new social network in town aimed at people in later life.
Could it be the key to help bridge social issues and deliver better care to our ageing population? We co-hosted an event with Remarkable Lives for Social Media Week Bristol to find out …
Over 65s now make up a huge section of society – it’s predicted that by 2040 one in four of us will be 65+ and by 2065 that will increase to one in three. As organisers of Social Media Week Bristol, it was important to us to ensure the events were inclusive and representative. So, when we heard about a new social network aimed at people in later life, it felt like the perfect case study for an event at Social Media Week Bristol.
What is Remarkable Lives?
Remarkable Lives co-founder Owen McNeir opened the event by explaining how the social network developed almost by accident after talking to Cynthia, Tom and Derek in a residential home. “I discovered that one had been the secretary to Winston Churchill, one was a cricketer and the other was a Master Mariner in the Merchant Navy.”
Realising how few staff and residents in the home knew about their lives, he logged their stories and pictures online, creating simple posts and including posts up to the current day. “It was like watching a jigsaw get put back together,” he says.
Of course, not everyone has had a glittering career in politics or on the pitch, but Owen believes that “everyone’s lives are remarkable in some way and to someone.” And this ethos is at the heart of his social network. “We live in a society that sees later life as a burden – Remarkable Lives puts human stories at the heart of care. I believe you can deliver better care by getting to know the whole person – past, present and future.”
Improving care via social networks
These are big claims, so it was interesting to hear from the early adopters of the platform. Michelle, an activity therapist, has used the product in care homes she works in.
“Time is crucial when you work in care and Remarkable Lives has helped to give an overview of who the person is that I’m working with, saving me time when I first meet them. But it’s also helped me to build relationships as I already feel like I know the person when I come into a session. It tells me what’s important to them and things that have shaped their lives, enabling me to plan activities that are person-centered.”
The platform has been designed firstly as a private social network for people in later life to record their memories and share them privately with the people that matter to them. But it also aims to be a platform for care providers, giving people a ‘Care Passport’, and making it useful on both a practical and a personal level.
Do we need another social network?
But with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other popular social media networks now being used widely by people aged 50+, do we really need a new product when so many already exist?
“We realised that the point where you sign up with other social media platforms is the point where your profile starts,” says Owen. “There is no way to back date or post about the past on other social networks.”
There are also plans to integrate audio and video, which the idea originally developed from when Owen made his audio recordings. “For me, the sound of someone’s voice is what I really missed when they died,” says Owen.
He believes that audio, particularly, is very powerful – many people have contacted him after their relatives have died to ask for the recordings that he has made and have found it a comforting way to feel close to that person again.
Increasing connectivity in later life
The project has been funded by UnLtd Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs. Award manager Sam Alford told us that they were keen on the idea of funding a project that increases the connectivity of people in later life with family and friends and tailoring technology in a way that is accessible and useful to people in later life.
“We know there are restrictions on time and resources in care settings. In social work you tend to hear about the person’s needs here and how – for example, the medication or care plan they need – but you don’t always get any information about a person’s history,” Sam told us.
“To us, Remarkable Lives isn’t about replacing human interaction – it’s about supporting it. There’s a fear of losing connection with others as they age, but this encourages us to see a person as rounded and whole.”
We’re interested to hear what you think – tell us your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us @Ambitiouspr.