Facebook for all and a Happy Birthday to my brother Alan!

So my brother had a birthday yesterday and I had been racking my brain trying to think of something useful that I could get for him.  He has MS (Multiple Sclerosis) and also had a stroke a few years ago that have left it difficult for him to communicate.  He now lives full time in a residential care home.  So for his 58th Birthday I decided to set him up on Facebook – but with a difference.


AlanJohnWalkerI know that Alan will struggle to manage a standard Facebook experience – he has never been technically minded and his MS makes it harder to do things than when he was younger so my idea was to provide him with a “read-only” experience of Facebook so that he can see what his family and friends have been posting and feel like he is more a part of what is going on in the outside world!

I began by setting Alan up with his own Facebook Account – https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100014462405710


The first thing that occurred to me is that there is a lot of noise on a typical Facebook Page/App.  The content that I would anticipate that Alan will be interested in is that within the red dotted border above (the timeline) – and so one of the things I am looking at going forward is how we might be able to focus on the timeline element itself.  But for now he will have access to everything and I will have to manage it as best I can. 

I only spoke to the Manager of the care home yesterday to sort out any potential issues (internet access being an obvious one and yes he does have potential for access) .  My thinking in terms of how this might work is different to the way that most people would use Facebook::


So how might this work in the first instance?

I envisage Alan being able to see the Facebook display at all times from his bed and that it is permanently set to show the above page. (At this point I don’t see Alan being able to make use of hands on access – the home is soon to be running an iPad trial which Alan will be a part of – stage 2!)

If someone comes in to Alan’s room they will then have the option of using the Facebook display as a conversation starter with Alan, perhaps spending a few minutes reviewing the most recent posts from his family and friends?

It would also be great if we (friends and family) posted occasionally items on our own Facebook that reflected things that Alan might be interested in (An example is the YouTube posting of someone playing Chopin’s’ Military Polonaise – something that my brother would always request that my Mother played for him on the piano at every available opportunity!)


This is also a good example that highlights the importance of the role that visitors to Alan’s room can play as the piano piece will only be heard if someone touches the play button!

Going forward I can see a number of improvements to this idea which I/we may look at implementing if this initial idea proves to be a success: 

Perhaps a  larger display that was able to focus solely on the timeline and could be operated by Alan using a simple two button remote (“up page”, “down page”’). 

In an ideal world the Facebook display would exist on Alan’s TV as a default channel that he can look at whenever he isn’t watching his TV.  This would need to be a super friendly implementation that goes beyond the current Facebook apps that are often a part of modern smart TVs (although I will take some time to investigate the current generation of Smart TVs to see just how suitable they might be to this purpose).


What does it look like?

Facebook Tablet Idea


Initially I have re-purposed a tablet that was originally part of our home monitoring system (we have just re-jigged our home security so this was freely available).  It isn’t a perfect choice as the screen is a little small though on the positive side the App seems to have a little less noise than the typical Facebook web page and the device itself is quite sturdy (it has a stand built into it’s base) so I am hopeful that I will be able to find a suitable spot in Alan’s room for it.

I drafted up the message to go along with it so that anyone entering Alan’s room (cleaners, social workers etc.) will be able to see what it is about and hopefully be encouraged to highlight any interesting items with Alan.

If you have read this far then thank you.  If you have stumbled on this post on the web and have any ideas for improving this scenario please comment below or email me at rd3d2@hotmail.co.uk.


Many thanks.