When entrepreneur James Batchelor proudly told his elderly and staunchly independent grandmother he had invented a piece of technology to keep her safe, neither of them could have imagined the huge impact it would later have on society.
Driven by a desire to make sure 86-year-old Eveline had the right balance of daily contact while maintaining a high level of independence, James invented a range of pioneering services that now increase regular contact for tens of thousands of older people across the UK.
Eighteen years later, his company Alertacall is celebrating a major milestone, as the value of services it has gifted to older people around the UK tops £2 million.
James said: “Very early on, I remember regularly talking with a customer who I discovered had little by way of family. Life was very tough for them, and several months later, their payments started getting rejected due to a lack of funds. “It was at this point that I knew we had a moral obligation, where possible, to always consider supporting people like that. We are a company that does really care about our customers, and it’s amazing that the amount of services we have donated has now crept up past that £2m mark.”
Windermere-based Alertacall was formed in 2004 and has won multiple awards.
Services include the award-winning OKEachDay button which allows daily contact, easy messaging and video calling through a touchscreen device. The technology is used nationwide by private customers and housing charities and is also increasingly being used to replace old style intercom units and pull cords often found in traditional sheltered housing.
Discreetly and under select conditions, Alertacall started to gift or subsidise some of its services for people who might otherwise struggle to afford them, aiming to focus on groups who were at a disadvantage or who only had minimal support for these kinds of systems with government benefits.
It’s not just through gifting services that Alertacall has made a difference. Over the years, the company has donated £80,000 to The Silver Line, a 24/7 charity helpline for older people, and it now sponsors an embryonic charity called Silver Stories which matches primary school age readers with older people.
James said there are many advantages to companies like Alertacall adopting a similar ‘giving back’ approach.
“I think all businesses can do well by doing good,” he said. “The fact we look after people like this creates a buzz around us, that attracts wonderful people to join our team, that ensures a compassionate service and ultimately creates more custom. It’s a virtuous circle.”
Alertacall went the extra mile during the Covid-19 lockdowns at a time when isolated residents were unable to spend time with loved ones.
At its own expense, the company increased its interaction with its customers, particularly those identified as the most lonely, by making extra calls and letting customers know they had a caring person to contact whenever required.
This complemented Alertacall’s long standing tradition of sending Christmas and birthday cards to its customers, and also making calls to customers on their birthdays and after hospital stays.
James added: “I think we’re seeing the start of a real shift in how business is done, and it’s right that businesses consciously try and make the world a better place. Is it difficult balancing that with growth? Well, it can be – but what you end up with is something you can feel proud about and the joy of working with great people.”
To find out more about Alertacall, visit www.alertacall.com.
Founded in 2004 Alertacall helps as many people as possible feel safe, connected and informed using ingenious technology and contact with people who care.
Alertacall employs around 100 people and was founded by James Batchelor, the original inventor of the “I am okay” button. He was inspired by Eveline, his own staunchly independent grandmother and her desire to remain in her own home for as long as possible.
The company now improves the lives of tens of thousands of people and has won many awards. It works in partnership with dozens of organisations in housing, health and social care and has many private customers.
Alertacall employs team members from all across the UK, with offices located in Windermere, Cumbria, and Warrington, Cheshire.
Eveline, James’ grandmother – who inspired his creation of Alertacall was a village shop keeper for much of her life, and a B+B operator up until her early eighties. After the death of 2 husbands – the first of whom was detained as a Prisoner of War in WW2, she learned to drive in her late 50s, travelled the world on her own and was an inspiration to many with her grit and determination to live on her own, and under her own terms for as long as possible.