Meals on Wheels Greenville uses Claris Companion to engage clients at home
GREENVILLE, S.C. — Meals on Wheels Greenville County is using technology to help its clients feel more connected.
The group launched a new initiative that it hopes will connect its clients socially and engage them through games, exercises and activities. It’s all done through a tablet delivered to the clients’ doorsteps. The tablet’s name? ‘Companion Charlie.’
“’Charlie’ is a friend to our clients,” Catriona Carlisle, Executive Director at Meals on Wheels Greenville County, said. “I like to say that ‘Companion Charlie’ was one of the good things that came out of Covid. I think we realized, as we saw the isolation, how it could impact not just physical health, but mental health. And so we realized that, coming out of COVID, we needed to do more for our clients.”
The tablet is loaded with games, exercises, messaging and the internet. Each client receives a year of free cellular data with their tablet. When ‘Companion Charlie’ is delivered, Meals on Wheels takes the time to show the clients how the tablet works and how they can use it best.
They can message and call with people at Meals on Wheels, and they can even connect with their family members who do not live close by. All the family members have to do is download the app compatible with ‘Companion Charlie.’
‘Charlie’ also connects to the internet to help keep Meals on Wheels clients engaged in their community.
“Several people, we’ve been able to connect them to their church, so they can watch a livestream, which has really made a big difference,” Carlisle said.
Carlisle says she hopes ‘Charlie’ will help her clients feel less lonely this holiday season. She says the staff at Meals on Wheels has been sending messages through ‘Charlie’ this week and will continue through the rest of the holiday season.
“As we all are sitting around the table with our family and friends, many of our clients don’t have that,” she said.
But the messages and calls will continue after the holidays, as well. Carlisle says that, over the course of the year, the clients using ‘Companion Charlie’ will complete a survey. She hopes that survey will give them a better idea of how effective ‘Charlie’ is at reducing the feeling of loneliness.
“We’ll be able to see if the needle is being moved. Do they feel more connected? Do they feel more loved? Then that’s a win for us and ultimately for the client,” Carlisle said.
During this pilot phase, Carlisle says Meals on Wheels Greenville County will find out how many more tablets they would like to have, how many their staff can monitor, and which clients would best benefit from ‘Companion Charlie.’
“This is just the next step through technology that we can connect to our clients,” she said.
According to the Meals on Wheels 2021 Annual Report, the goal is to expand the program into a larger group of clients on a rotating schedule.