“Good Morning everybody!” 94 year old Patsie beams from her most recent Polo (video message), “It’s Tuesday morning; overcast; drizzling a little, but still it’s a good day…”
The great-grandmother, and mother of eight’s clear eyes look out the window for a moment before addressing her family with a joyful grin, “every day is a good day… Oh y’all look good, and you look happy… so glad to see your face.”
Patsie is the head of a large sprawling family who live scattered around the US. Patsie lives alone, and prior to Marco Polo the family’s only real connection with their spry but aging mother was through hard to coordinate phone calls across numerous time zones, or at annual holiday gatherings. Like many older people, Patsie’s life had become one of relative isolation; disconnected from the little daily moments that make up her family’s life.
Patsie’s youngest son Carlton and his wife Tammy had introduced the family to Marco Polo the year before, when one of Carlton’s older brothers lost his wife.
“We were looking for a way to connect with my brother, and reach out to him” explains Carlton, “but through that we realized it was a way for all of us to stay in touch.”
For Patsie living on her own with only one of her children close by, Marco Polo has not only been a great way to see her family far more often, it has also sometimes been a reason to get out of bed and get dressed up a little.
“Folks didn’t want to get on here without looking halfway decent…,” laughs Carlton. “The neat thing is that it gives us a chance to connect a little bit every day, in a way that is easy.” And on topics that might not warrant a phone call normally, like sports, a particularly good garden year… or just the weather.
Tammy noticed changes in the whole family when they got a chance to connect more, “you know some of the siblings are in their 80’s, so they haven’t been in a house together in years! Getting back to being able to touch base every day: the little nuances, and every day goings on. We were already a close family, but this just made everyone closer.”
There was a learning curve at first. “Not everyone is savvy with smartphones. We had to get everyone used to getting in to Marco Polo, and making comments…” explains Carlton, but it didn’t take long before everyone was Polo’ing to each other with ease.
Patsie recently had a new great granddaughter. Rather than having to wait alone at home for photos, or a phone call, Patsie got to enjoy the moment through Marco Polo, and had grandmotherly advice she could give right away:
“Have her eyes opened, have you got her to smile yet? Have you been talking to her? You gotta talk to her to make her smile. She’s beautiful, and I hope to see y’all soon. Hope I live to see it.” says Patsie with no sign of slowing down any time soon.
When loneliness and isolation plague the lives of many older members of our society, Tammy says that she cannot overstate the role that Marco Polo has played in their lives, in small ways that add up.
“This is not social media, I consider social media to be with strangers… this is more of a connection. And it’s a quick way, it doesn’t take a whole lot of time. A phone call can be too much, even texting can be another thing you have to do. To be able to hear your mom talk, and the positivity of that connection every day… that’s inspiring.”