Technology is providing new ways of staying in touch and keeping active while remaining safe during the coronavirus crisis, transforming life inside state-of-the-art care villages operated by Belong.
Belong has been helping residents find new ways of connecting with friends and family, expanding its use of systems traditionally focused on care records to support wider wellbeing activities in more dynamic ways, as well as enabling people to broaden their horizons through new technology facilitated opportunities.
Belong’s deputy chief executive, Tracy Paine, explains: “We’ve always looked to technology to find new ways of driving standards of care, but where once these were focused on recording care information, we have now turned to new features that are helping our customers during lockdown, including working closely with one of our providers – Person Centred Software – to trial new capabilities.”
One example of these is the Relatives Gateway, which enables Facebook styled updates to be provided to relatives through a secure, private connection. Including facilitating video calls and picture messaging, this is proving invaluable reassurance for families of people who have moved into the village and are required to self-isolate, allowing residents, family members and Belong team members more time to get to know each other.
Since lockdown was announced, residents at Belong villages have also become familiar with mainstream messaging, video conferencing and streaming apps to chat face-to-face with loved ones, take part in weekly quizzes and join in virtual birthday parties.
Voice-activated technology offers another way of keeping residents entertained while non-essential visits are on hold. Each of Belong village’s 24-hour care households is equipped with an Amazon Alexa, which allows playlists of a person’s favourite music to be played by voice command. This creates reminiscence and conversational opportunities as residents quiz Alexa on past and current events or points of interest, such as the best beaches in 1940 or ask for the weather in their childhood town.
Meanwhile, Facebook Live has provided a channel for live performances by favourite musical acts that frequently take place at the village. And other online provisions have allowed versions of the types of excursions enjoyed before lockdown, including seeing animals being fed at Chester Zoo, via Facebook Live, and attending theatre productions and museum tours. Virtual reality exercise equipment has also enabled residents to walk and cycle in destinations around the world, serving as another valuable tool for reminiscence.
Commenting on the expanded use of technology, Angela Luckett, experience coordinator at Belong Morris Feinmann, in Didsbury, Manchester, said: “Dramatic changes to daily life have meant that we’ve had to adapt quickly to allow people to continue to do the things that are vital to wellbeing, including maintaining social interaction, and technology has been critical to this. Given the positive response from customers, it looks like we’ll continue to enjoy some of the new activities when life goes back to normal.”
Belong has also launched ‘Belong Active’, a Joe Wickes-styled YouTube channel, featuring exercise videos recorded by the care provider’s lead exercise instructor, to help older people continue exercising in the village or while isolating at home.