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Social media platform for elderly keeps families in touch


A social media platform that enables elderly or disabled people living in care to interact with relatives in real-time is being commercially launched in Australia.

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Developed by South Australian tech start-up Care Konnect , the digital app provides users end-to-end with a live news feed containing updates about their activities, along with an instant messaging function and a calendar to log upcoming events and appointments.

The platform also allows posts from health workers and care home staff to update family members on the progress of their loved one and gives users the ability to file complaints about their treatment.

Care Konnect is based at the University of Adelaide’s entrepreneur hub Thinclab and recently launched the app in the South Australian capital ahead of a Sydney release this month.

Founder and CEO Sean Grealy said the product had been designed and tested across aged care and disability services to make it practical and easy to use.

“We spent almost a year working with four different aged care providers with (industry) groups like COTA SA and The Plug-in, running workshops with people who were 50-plus years of age and did design thinking workshops,” Grealy said.

“So basically assessing: is our design good, is it practical, do you know how to use it? Really simple things that are overlooked by the incumbent technology providers in this space.”

Aged care or disability service providers are activated on Care Konnect and set up private networks for their care recipients (patients) on the app. Networks consist of the care recipient along with their family and friends whom they invite through the platform to privately exchange updates with. Each network can have an unlimited number of users.

Care staff members or elderly patients who are competent with the app can share photos of daily activities with their network as well as comment on or ‘like’ posts that are uploaded by their relatives.

Grealy, pictured above,  said the platform provided a range of social and personal benefits for the care recipients and their relatives such as reducing the stress on primary carers.

“What we found through our validation stage was that there’s one or two key people in every network who were in charge previously of sending their updates to all of the other family members or friends of the older person, which now just happens through our app,” he said.

“It also reduces social isolation by increasing the engagement, the conversation, updates and general day-to-day touch points with the older person and their network.”

Another key component of Care Konnect allows care recipients and their families to provide feedback to aged care homes and lodge complaints quickly and easily through the app.

In October last year, the Australian Government launched a Royal Commission into the aged care sector, which has uncovered a series of systemic issues and numerous instances of elder abuse within the industry nationally.

Grealy said the app’s feedback function streamlined an otherwise clunky process for service providers, allowing them to better manage and respond to complaints.

“One of the hardest parts about feedback is there are different types and they need to be managed in certain ways to meet compliance,” he said.

“We’ve worked with providers to essentially make sure we help them meet compliance with their feedback and complaints, so they are instantly received, it goes straight to management and they can manage it.

“We’re essentially giving aged care providers a digital front-end to their customers.”

Care Konnect uses a subscription service model and charges $10 AUD per network a month to service providers who can decide to absorb the cost or charge it to the care recipient. The company launched a pre-sale model of the product at the start of this year to begin acquiring customers and sustain its cash flow.

It also received $50,000 from an angel investor within its first six months.

The start-up has three service providers active on the platform in Adelaide including: Kalyra Communities in Belair, Fullarton Lutheran Homes and ECH , which is one of the largest home care service providers in the state. Two Sydney-based care providers have also signed up.

Grealy said Care Konnect was considering a licensing model to help it expand the app into Victoria and target international markets.

“We want to hit 2000 active networks by the end of 2019 and we would like to have fully activated our existing customers and launch in another state.” he said.

“We’re talking with people in Melbourne and we’re looking globally with different people who are trying to solve similar problems overseas, so how can we work with them and collaborate.

“Our IP in the space is interesting to a lot of people.”

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