Older Generation Frozen Out This Christmas
Groundbreaking Pilot Project Sparks The ’GranCam Revolution’ To Connect Families
Reading - UK - 20 December 2005 - More than half (58%) of the over 50s will be without their families this Christmas because they live too far away according to new research, leaving 53% feeling sad, frustrated and lonely. In a move to connect families separated at Christmas, a programme to help older people stay in touch with their loved ones has been launched by Microsoft in partnership with Age Concern.
The GranCam: Connecting Families Programme, a pilot scheme, introduced families separated by distance to the free MSN Messenger Video Chat service. The technology uses webcams to allow people to communicate with each other as if they are in the same room. The programme was prompted by the new research which established worrying trends in today’s family life:
The Faceless Family: Three-quarters (73%) of people admit to only keeping in touch with family via telephone and email, leading to the rise of the ’Faceless Family’ loved ones that we rarely actually see
Friends Before Family: A fifth (21%) of all over 50s will be without family this year as their loved ones make other arrangements and visit friends closer to home
You Cant Buy Love: One in six (16%) of the nation claims the cost of travelling to see their loved ones keeps them away at Christmas and throughout the year
The Uprooted Family Tree: A third (33%) of the nation feels helpless to stop the lack of contact as external pressures such as time and money drive families apart
The month long project saw 60 participants using ’Grancams’ (webcams) to experience precious moments in family life, such as reading bed time stories to their grandchildren, when before these moments would have been lost due to geographical distance. Throughout the scheme, the over 50s and their families embraced webcam technology, with the ’Grancam Revolution’ having a marked impact on family relationships and communication:
David and Pat Archer from Northampton, commented, “We dont get to see our nine grandchildren nearly as often as wed like but during the project we were able to read stories to them at night and even test them on some of their homework. Children change so quickly so its just wonderful that we can now see them whenever we like, despite them being over 200 miles away.”
74% of participants felt ’happy or elated’ after each Grancam conversation
90% of participants felt their family relationships had improved following the project
100% of participants will be continuing to use the webcam technology in a bid to continue closer family relationships
Patsy Michell from Lymington, Hampshire, said “I’m recently widowed and I’ve found the past year a very trying period. Being able to see and talk to my daughter and grandchildren is really comforting it makes my day when I can see them waving to me on my computer screen and can chat to them about what they’ve been up to”.
Microsoft commissioned the pilot programme as part of its ’Unlimited Potential’ campaign and its work with Age Concern. This pilot project plays a key role in their aim to bridge the digital divide and reduce social exclusion for older people.
Microsoft works in partnership with the charity on a variety of projects and programmes which assist and encourage older people to use technology to enrich their lives. As well as the ’Connecting Families’ project, Microsoft also partners with Age Concern for the annual Silver Surfers festival that raises awareness of the relevance and benefits of the internet for older people.
Gordon Lishman, Director General, Age Concern said: “With over 3.5 million older people living alone and many of these not having regular visitors, this technology will provide them with the confidence to use computers and the internet, to help make their later-life more fulfilling, enjoyable and productive.”
Alistair Baker, Managing Director, Microsoft UK said: “We commissioned this project as part of our commitment to improving the lives of older people who are digitally excluded and to highlight how easy it is for them to stay in touch with MSN Messenger. While its not a substitute for human contact, technology is a powerful tool that can help people develop relationships and stay connected during the periods they dont see their families.”
Notes to editors:
The Connecting Families pilot began in December 2005 and will continue until June 2006, with Microsoft continuing to follow-up and monitor all participants. All involved will be able to keep the technology that was provided to them for the purposes of the scheme.
All candidates were over the age of 55. They were given Logitech web cams, broadband internet access and training on how to set up MSN Messenger accounts.
* Case studies available on request *
About Microsoft’s Relationship with Age Concern:
Age Concern is the leading charity in the UK involved with the concerns and needs of older people, and is a key commentator on ageing issues, working to improve the quality of life for all older people.
Microsoft believes that older people are in danger of being excluded from the world of IT, yet they are one of the groups who can benefit most from it. Information technology enables people to easily stay in touch with family and friends, access information and services from home and be active in society. With this in mind, Microsoft and Age Concern began their partnership to tackle the ’digital divide’ and bring the benefits of IT to people in later life.
Microsoft and Age Concern are currently involved with the following initiatives:
Silver Surfers Festival
Microsoft has worked alongside Cable & Wireless to support the Age Concern Silver Surfers Festivals. The festival, launched in 2003 and repeated in 2004, was designed to raise awareness of the relevance and benefits of the Internet for older people.
By attending free taster sessions at Age Concerns across the country, older people can see what is available on the Internet and how to access it, in a friendly, social environment.
In 2004 over 100 Age Concern centres hosted free taster sessions during the festival with the aim of attracting over 7,000 older people to get online for the first time.
As a result of the Unlimited Potential funding, Age Concern launched a roving IT bus, the Mini-Explorer, in May 2004. It enables older people in the South West region to experience the benefits of IT and the Internet.
The Mini-Explorer is equipped with 11 laptops and additional equipment (e.g. printers and scanners) which are taken to the doorstep of local community centres, residential care facilities, sheltered housing and nursing homes. The bus has been a great success and in its first four months provided Internet sessions to over 300 people.
MSN Messenger, the UK’s number one instant messaging service on the internet with 9.4 million monthly users (Nielsen//NetRatings September 2005) and over 185 million active users worldwide (MSN Internal data)
A summary of MSN Messenger 7.0’s features includes:
Free PC-to-PC video conversation. The free MSN Video Conversation service, powered by Logitech technology, connects people with one-click synchronised audio and video, and offers full-screen video viewing
Ability to talk over the Internet for free. MSN Messenger 7.0 includes higher-quality audio functionality so customers can enjoy free, real-time PC-to-PC voice conversations with friends and family around the world
Greater personalisation. New personalisation options, including Winks, Dynamic Display Pictures and theme packs, help customers show their personality and their mood. Customers can choose from a selection of free content or get premium content from companies such as AG Interactive, the media subsidiary of American Greetings Corp. and Saw-you.com.
Instant MSN Search capability. MSN Messenger 7.0 offers a Shared Search button in the conversation window so people can find answers instantly through MSN Search while they continue their conversation.
Photo-sharing options. Customers can have more fun with their friends by sharing photos during a conversation and viewing a slide show together. People can save shared photos and add pictures of their own to the photo swap session.
Unique presence options. People can display a personal message alongside their Messenger name and status. The customized message can include a greeting that expresses their mood or show the name of a song the person is listening to on Windows Media Player or iTunes Player. With one click, customers can go to MSN Music to purchase the song or listen to a snippet
Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realise their full potential.
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