As more people are practicing social distancing because of COVID-19, Glover Park-based MemoryWell is offering its digital timelines product free of charge for families seeking to use this uncertain time to create digital family history projects.
Launched in 2016 by Jay Newton-Small, the company manages a network of more than 700 journalists who interview seniors and their families to publish stories, along with photos, music and video, on its mobile responsive web platform. MemoryWell’s writers also work directly with senior living communities and home care providers to replace such organizations’ burdensome intake questionnaires with brief, intimate life stories that help improve empathy between caregivers and seniors.
MemoryWell is offering these free tools as a way to bring families together virtually. The company normally serves the senior community but some of its select digital tools are now available for a limited time direct to consumers.
Looking for a safe family activity to do with grandparents during the COVID19 crisis? @MemoryWell is offering FREE digital life timelines. Families can gather virtually & build a life story with photos, music and videos and learn about their family history https://t.co/J653zUA45w
— Jay Newton-Small (@JNSmall) March 17, 2020
Users can gain access to the free timeline tools through MemoryWell’s website, and can invite other family members to contribute. The company can help guide conversations by sending out prompts for the answers to be posted to the timeline, which can include major life moments — for instance, when a family lost its farm to the events leading up to the Pearl Harbor attack.
“In this moment of uncertainty, the ties that bind are more important than ever. Sharing family histories connect the generations and strengthen our families and communities,” said Newton-Small in a statement. “This is a unique moment that allows the time so many of us crave to capture family history that we have always wanted to share.”
Through MemoryWell’s partnership with blurb.com, families can also print the timelines into books. And for a more curated experience, MemoryWell is also offering a discount on its classical stories offerings.
Newton-Small said the company will continue to offer its digital timelines for free indefinitely, reporting that MemoryWell has seen a 400% increase in people starting new timelines compared to the product’s usage before the crisis. During this pandemic, Newton-Small said she has also transitioned her corporate team to remote work.
“I’m a big believer in physical distancing, not social distancing,” Newton-Small told Technical.ly while sharing her feelings about the global crisis. “We’re already experiencing a loneliness epidemic, particularly amongst seniors, and COVID-19 has the potential to make that so much worse. I try and find ways to stay connected to friends, whether it’s an outdoor walk, a virtual drink or just little notes via text or WhatsApp.”
When asked how the pandemic has affected MemoryWell’s day-to-day business, Newton-Small said she feels like the market will be disrupted for years to come.
“I’m not sure the senior living/skilled nursing industries will ever be the same,” said Newton-Small. “That said, we know our platform is helping families who are now separated from their elder loved ones because of social distancing. And our stories and interactive timelines are being increasingly looked to as an intergenerational family engagement tool — a family history project that can be done remotely.”
To keep the business in good standing, Newton-Small said MemoryWell has quickly pivoted to sell professionally written obituaries, launching a new site called RemembranceWell.com. The microsite is actively looking for partnerships with local funeral homes. MemoryWell has also added a love story site for weddings and anniversaries called MeetCuteStories.com, with plans to launch more microsites in the future.
“The good thing about our fully automated platform is that it’s nimble and we can plug almost anything into the front end, while the backend of assigning, writing and editing is automated and the same,” Newton-Small said.
During this global crisis, MemoryWell has also launched a partnership with Falls Church, Virginia-based Capital Caring Health, a hospice care provider. Patients and their families now have access to MemoryWell’s network of journalists to curate their own digital stories.