How tech can help social isolation: AbilityNet and KOMP

Shows an elderly lady knitting at her table. The KOMP screen is visible in the backgroundIn this time of social isolation, technology can help us keep in touch with loved ones, especially those who are older and vulnerable.

For those who haven’t grown up in the technological age, technology may feel as if it’s a barrier as well as a help.

That’s why AbilityNet and No Isolation are working together to understand the difference that simple technology can make to people’s lives.

No Isolation specialises in simple technology to help people keep in touch. The Norwegian start-up is the maker of KOMP "a one-button computer designed for those who grew up before the technological age and have no experience using a smartphone, says Harriet Gridley UK Head of Business Development. “KOMP has been designed to work incredibly simply so that absolutely anyone can use it without any prior knowledge.”

AbilityNet believes in a digital world that is accessible to all. We deliver this mission by offering FREE services to help older and disabled people use their technology.

 “Many older people are given tools by their relatives perhaps, but they can feel a lack of mastery if they can't work out how to use the iPad or the smartphone. It feels like it’s one more thing that they can't do when we strongly believe it's not about their capabilities,” she adds.

Using KOMP, an elderly relative is able to receive two-way video calls and photographs from loved ones. The idea is it’s the relative that initiates the call or can send the images.

No Isolation designed the device in close dialogue with the user group, testing and reiterating the product along the way. “We’ve done simple things to make it easier to use.

Our FREE online tool My Computer My Way can show you how to adapt your technology

“For example, as you age you get this leathery fingertip phenomenon, which means that the touch screen won't respond as well to older fingertips; it's quite similar to when you've got cold fingertips and touch screens don’t work as well,” says Harriet.

There's no touch screen; no need to remember a password and no computer upgrades or anything like that. In that sense, it's very straightforward,” she added.

Keeping people connected

Close up of ladies hands knitting with KOMP device behindDuring the COVID-9 pandemic, there’s been a rise in demand for KOMP as families look for ways to stay in touch remotely. 

No Isolation contacted AbilityNet and we’re now working with them to ensure our volunteers – who would normally be offering free, at home face-to-face support - understand the KOMP device and will then be passing a few units on to some of our clients with a view to learning more about how KOMP can help.

AbilityNet volunteers will be able to provide remote support.

“Our UK-wide team of friendly tech volunteers are happy to help KOMP users get their device set up and running. What a great, simple tech idea to help the older generation stay connected with family, that is more important than ever in the current circumstances.  Thank you to No Isolation for letting us experience these devices and pass them on to our clients,” said Sarah Brain, AbilityNet's Free Services Manager.

We have a limited number of devices and will be in touch with clients directly.

The aim is to see if KOMP can work for the loneliest and isolated who don’t have a family but are keen to use it to make contact with the outside world.  

AbilityNet and KOMP are proud to be developing our relationship and to have a product and service that are able to provide support in these difficult times.

Tackling isolation together

No Isolation is five years old and has a range of products to help tackle isolation. We’ve previously recognised the AV1 robot as part of our Tech4Good Awards.

The robot allows children who need a long-term absence (long-term illness, say) to have a physical presence in the classroom and a presence that other children can engage with.

Reducing isolation is a passion both companies share. “No one should have to feel alone. There are so many people on this planet, it doesn't make sense that you should live your life without others nearby because that's what's most important, to feel valued, to feel part of a community, to feel loved,” says Harriet.

“There's a lot of research to say that social isolation has a huge impact in many different ways” explains Harriet, adding: “First of all, obviously we've all experienced loneliness at times, but chronic loneliness, can actually have not only an impact on our mental health but also on our physiological health because, when we are isolated from another group in society, us, we're likely to have an increase in the stress hormones in our body.

No Isolation has also developed KOMP Pro for healthcare settings, which enables healthcare professionals to use the device to remind patients about taking their medication for example. It is accessible via the KOMP Pro app.

There is an unusually high demand for the KOMP, however, No Isolation is working hard to meet demand by significantly increasing production. Sign up for the waitlist on the KOMP website.

Can you help us do more?

If you know a care home, local authority, or charity who may benefit from the KOMP technology, please get in touch. If your business may be able to support the roll-out of KOMP to vulnerable and socially isolated people in the UK, please also get in touch. Either via AbilityNet or to No Isolation directly: