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Professional interviews via calls with life story experts to record your older loved one's stories and provide companionship.

Photo of Felicia Chang
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Adults over 65, are now being told to self-isolate for an indefinite length of time in every country in the world. For this dynamic, diverse, active, family-oriented population, this has resulted in a loss of activities, independence, and social engagement (e.g. no family visits, closed adult day/community centres/churches). 

Even with restrictions lifted and the possibility of experimental COVID-19 inoculations rolled out much earlier, many indicate they intend to keep self-isolating to some degree for possibly as long as 1-2 years. Changing to a more isolated lifestyle can negatively impact their health and wellness, including increasing their risk of loneliness.

Additionally, younger family (especially women) are now all carers in some way for their older loved ones, yet they are busy working and taking care of other family members. With a new appreciation for the role of elders in family wellbeing, they are also reflective about the possible loss of their loved ones, and seeking ways to keep older and younger family members meaningfully occupied and connected.

How then, could we help (i) older adults stay mentally active and emotionally engaged from the safety of their homes, and (ii) support their younger family members with simple ways to keep the older generations of their families meaningfully occupied?


Our skilled interviewers call your loved ones to record their memories, personalities, and family histories so that these can be shared for generations.

These are friendly conversations they can look forward to — especially important during these times when we can't be together.


  1. Sign up and we'll be in touch to book a phone call and learn about your loved one.
  2. A kind and curious interviewer calls them to say hello and ask them questions about their life and family history over a 40-minute conversation. 
  3. The recording is shared privately with you on a personal webpage*.


  • Empathetic interviewers who listen intently and ask the right questions.  
  • Professional voice recorded memories to be enjoyed with family and friends for generations. 
  • Personal password-protected webpage to access your recordings.
  • You can opt in to work with an artist to transform your recordings to unique heirlooms, or work with a researcher to learn more about the historical contexts that shaped your family.


  • Using data from answers to questions about someone’s life, an algorithm records specific details, and submits follow up prompts appropriately (interviewer or DIY approach). In the backend a rough narrative is plotted.
  • Users can commission unique books, digital heirlooms, or additional historical research from a community of artists, and/or add personal stories and assets to the wider community to help others build their stories. 

We hope this service brings people something simple, reliable and meaningful to look forward to during a time of much uncertainty.

What is the need are you focusing on?

From interviews with health experts, care homes, and individuals:

(i) Older adults need activities to stay mentally active and emotionally engaged from the safety of their homes: Adults over 65, are a dynamic, diverse, active, family-oriented population. They are now told to self-isolate for an indefinite length of time in every country in the world, which has resulted in a loss of activities, independence, and social engagement (e.g. no family visits, closed adult day/community centres/churches). They indicate that they plan to keep isolating to some degree for est 1-2 years. This can increase their risk of loneliness, a serious public health issue.

(ii) Carers need to keep older family members occupied and connected: Younger family (esp. women) are now all carers in some way for their elders, yet they are busy and unsure of how to help. With a new appreciation for the role of elders in family wellbeing, they are also reflective about the possible loss of their loved ones.

Which type of submission are you sharing?

  • Sharing a pivot idea your organization is considering or could consider
  • Sharing an actual pivot your organization has already made

Describe the business pivot or adaptation in 3-4 sentences.

During this global pandemic, listening to and celebrating our elders feels more even more important for our individual and collective mental and emotional well being. We have pivoted our services to provide the simplest, safest way for families to meaningfully support each other: MemoryLines, a phone call service and digital memory sharing platform with life story experts. 

Do you plan to implement this solution?

  • Yes

Describe the impact that this solution will create in the world.

According to the World Population Prospects, 9% (1 in 11) of the world’s population were over 65 in 2019. We hope to improve the lives for this population and their family carers by (i) reducing the risk of loneliness by engaging cognitively well adults 65+ years old in friendly conversations to record their memories (ii) support busy, caretaking family members (mostly women, 45-55 years) by providing a trustworthy service to engage loved ones, and record stories they always wanted (especially meaningful in this time of uncertainty). We can immediately provide 30 calls/week and are finalizing tools to train interviewers and could reach 100 people/calls/week in 2 weeks. With high penetration VoIP and low-cost distance calling options (e.g. Skype accounts) we can call worldwide. We offer simple webpages to share/access recordings but would like to eventually use machine learning to prompt tailored questions based on data input and historical/cultural contexts and develop narratives.

What is the name of your business or organization?

Plantain Publishing Ltd

What does your business/company do? Whose needs does your business/company address? Who do you serve?

Plantain was borne out of a belief that we could help build a more connected and empathetic world through sharing life histories. We are a team of social scientists, researchers, entrepreneurs, and designers who help people record their life stories in unique books and digital heirlooms. We serve families and businesses. For the past 7+ years we have helped hundreds of generations worldwide capture their stories.

What is your profession?

Global health professional and entrepreneur

Where are you located (country)?

Trinidad and Tobago, UK, Uganda

Where are you located (region)?

  • Latin America and the Caribbean

What industry is your business/company in?

  • Entrepreneur/Investor
  • Healthcare/Medical
  • Family services; Services to improve the quality of life for older adults

How many people does your business/company employ?

  • 0-10

How old is your business/company?

  • 5-10 years old

Which classification describes your organization/business?

  • Business

What kind of stakeholders and partnerships are needed to pursue this solution?

  • Funding- Grants
  • Funding- Investment
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- NGOs
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- Private Sector

Do you need help building partnerships and finding partners?

  • Yes

If Yes to the above, please share 1-2 sentences describing the specific help you desire.

(1) Partner with overwhelmed health calling/telemedicine services to refer appropriate people who are lonely/stressed carers looking for ways to meaningfully occupy loved ones. We would also love to support people who have lost loved ones because of COVID by providing memorial webpages (life stories and collecting memories from their friends and families) (2) Developers, UX designers with experience in multi-media platforms, intergenerational engagement, machine learning

What do you think are the main barriers to implementing this solution?

(1) Building trust - which is especially important for older adults. Partnership with international groups would based in the relevant countries would be important (2) Sales requires multiple buy-ins from older and younger family members. But, many people don't think they are "special enough" to record their stories, hence our system of an "Ambassador" telling you you're awesome and gifting you a call

If you are currently working on a pivot, what have you learned so far?

(1) Experts know that loneliness is a health problem, but individuals/families do not articulate that they are lonely. This comes out in other ways, e.g. missing their family/grandkids and stating they haven't engaged with them in over a week (2) People know it's difficult right now and don't need to be reminded - so keep the messaging simple, and easygoing (3) Persons 65+ years old have asked if they can do it for themselves (4) People are bored, and without typical daily distractions, family history is a good activity they can do with their loved ones (especially grandkids) in mind (5) Younger carers are busy and don't always want to listen to the same stories from their older loved ones - but they understand how important these are. They also are worried about and appreciate their loved ones a different way because of COVID-19, so feel it is even more important for them to have these stories

Are you aware of any open source efforts, hackathons or other collaborative efforts related to your solution? Are you participating in these efforts?

I am a member of the code4covid Slack group, an initiative to bring UK tech projects together and coordinate volunteers to use their skills for these grassroot businesses, and will be part of the Editathon for the Coronavirus Tech Handbook on May 2. In the Caribbean, Plantain is also partnering with Read2Me, a bedtime story reading service on IG live. We will be pairing grandparents (amongst the best storytellers in our opinion!) with a Read2Me reader (usually a young artist or public figure).

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Join the conversation:

Photo of Isaac Jumba

Thank you for sharing your idea Felicia Chang . Really inspiring to know that your pivot is focussing on helping the elderly go through this situation.

Do you see the needs of your users evolving post the pandemic period? If so, how could your solution continue providing value in the long-term?

Photo of Felicia Chang

Hi @Isaac Jumba! Thanks, we are really focused on helping our elders and their families as much as we can.

Yes, I do see the needs evolving! Here are a few ways and the long term value we hope our solution can provide:

1) Based on our interviews, many people over 60+ plan to continue implementing various degrees of self-isolation strategies for at least 1-2 years after the restrictions are raised. This is even when a vaccine is rolled out because they are nervous about its efficacy. This will lead to them seeking new, safer activities that minimize transmission risks. Life story and family history work are great activities as many have "writing a memoir or collecting family histories" on their bucket list (and this is often done with their families in mind); it requires cognitive exercise!; can provide companionship (reminiscing and life story work have also been used to improve patient centred care and areas related to dementia). MemoryLines will continue to be a safe activity they can do, and maybe can evolve to them inviting friends to do it as a group so to replace some of the community activities.

2) Families and their carers will have less income. MemoryLines offers the smallest, most affordable and simplest way to record these stories: a friendly chat with our experts. The Pay As You Go or Subscription system allows them to continue as they wish, and they can opt in to produce any heirloom after - the most important is capture the raw content (ie their memories) while we can!

3) Our elders and their family carers are also more in tune with facing mortality. The fears and anxiety that were very sharp during the pandemic may continue to have impact after all calms. Recounting memories is a reflective exercise, and can give families an active conduit through which they can have these conversations. I would also love to partner with persons who work in end of life care to better integrate this into our work.

4) Care homes are being ravaged by the disease and there may be opportunities for us to partner with them in some way.