WhatsUp? is a mobile communication platform that fosters intergenerational social interaction between elders and their younger relatives and friends. At one side, the younger uses WhatsUp? LifeShare, a full featured messaging application developed for the communication device most commonly used by youngsters: the smartphone. On the other side, elders use WhatsUp? Display, and tablet oriented application that works initially as a display of all received messages and pictures, adapting its interface later on to also support sharing from the elder to the youngster.
It is a fact of life that as we grow old, our capabilities are reduced in numerous ways including, among others, the decline of vision, hearing and of psychomotor abilities (Drolet et. al. 2010, Fozard & Salant 2001). Because of these changes, elders' interactions with relatives and friends tend to be reduced, often restricted to sporadic phone calls and face to face meeting that are usually initiated by the elders. Most grandparents talk to their grandchildren less than once a fortnight, phone-calls seldom last more than five minutes and grandparents (or parents) initiate the great majority of the calls (Evjemo 2004).
On the other hand, social relationships are undoubtedly one of the most important factors that affect wellbeing, and the problems we have mentioned earlier can only hinder our ability to maintain and nurture them. Information and communication technologies can help to tackle this problem by considering better both elderly especial capabilities and youngsters modes of communication. Following this overall requirement, WhatsUp? is a mobile communication platform specifically designed to foster social interactions between elderly users and their friends and family, breaking elders from isolation.
In the first iteration, WhatsUp? Display worked only in a photo-frame mode, receiving text and pictures. Later on, three more levels of complexity were added, to enable simple two-way communication allowing the elder to ask for news (level 1, "What's UP"), reply with like/unlike messages (level 2, "Feedback") and reply with a text message (level 3, "Complete").
WhatsUp? is a work in progress. Initial validation of our prototype demonstrated that a platform of this type has a real potential for filling the communication gap between elders and their younger social connections