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Thinking Outside the (Chatter)Box

Peter Stanley, from St. Luke's Church Shireoaks, tells us about a pioneering project to reduce loneliness in the pandemic...

The Chatterbox Project

The Chatterbox Project has, through some kind donations from Church members, being able to run a pilot of the Alexa Show 5 and EE 4H Wifi hub with a couple of people who are no longer able to come to church services.

Our first pilot system we were able to give to Nora on her 105th Birthday. Nora lives in a bungalow by herself and although she has helpers coming in and her daughter popping in she is still very independent and full of life. She has found the pandemic difficult to deal with because of the isolation that it has created and she has particularly missed being able to come to church and meet with people she knows and loves. Initially we had created DVD's of the services and posted them to her to play - however she had to wait for her daughter or carer to come to load the DVD's and play them as this was too complicated for her to handle.

Now all Nora has to say is "Alexa, Service" and it will play the latest service from St. Lukes Church. We gave Nora an A5 card with a few helpful Chatterbox commands on the card such as "Alexa, Good Morning" which triggers a routine to say good morning to her, tell her the day and time and play the BBC News headlines. For her birthday all her friends recorded a video message and this was put together into a one video message that Nora can play when she says "Alexa, Happy Birthday".

Needless to say Nora is absolutely delighted with the Chatterbox system and is regularly showing it off to the people who visit - she thinks that whoever invented it must be very clever.

Our second pilot is now running with Rita and George, Rita is 91 and George who is not very well and currently in hospital is 97. Rita and George have not been able to come to church for a while through Georges illness, however this was further complicated when Rita had to give up her car because the insurance costs were over £1,000 a year. This has led to both Rita and George being increasingly isolated and lonely. With George in Hospital, Rita is now on her own at home and so the Chatterbox system has been a God send as her DVD players had all stopped working so Rita is able to watch the services now very quickly and easily. Rita like Nora has discovered other things that Chatterbox will do including meowing like a cat - which is entertaining both Rita and Jasper her lovely black cat.

A further 2 systems have been donated, one of which is scheduled to go to Valerie who is currently living in a local care home and the other is planned to be installed in the house of a blind lady who lives by herself. We hope to initially install 20 Chatterbox Systems for people we know are isolated and lonely and the pilot systems are providing very helpful feedback for us to improve future installations of Chatterbox.

St. Luke's Shireoaks