A personal family newspaper for elderly relatives who find it difficult to use modern technology is rapidly growing in popularity. Subscriptions increased in particular during 2020, when it was more difficult than usual to visit family in person.
The Famileo newspaper was launched by a French start-up based in St-Malo in 2015, but it is now available worldwide.
In 2017, 700 families were signed up. This was followed by a steady rise in subscriptions and then a surge of 25% during the first confinement which increased the numbers by 28,000 in two and a half months and a further 20,000 in the summer and at the beginning of the second confinement. There are now 130,000 subscriber families, 15,000 in English.
Contributors upload photos and messages on to the Famileo website or application from a smartphone, tablet or computer which are then automatically downloaded on to a paper support in a magazine format and the personalised newspaper is posted to the recipient once a month, or more often if you choose.
The idea came from a young business man, Tanguy de Gélis, who had difficulty keeping in contact with his grandmother, Elisabeth who lives in a care home.
For Christmas, 2013, he gave her a tablet, but after six months he realised she was finding it difficult to use and preferred the postcards he sent her. So he came up with the idea of a newspaper.
He and co-founder Armel de Lesquen worked on the idea for a year before launching the first issue in August, 2015.
One of the team is communications manager Alix L’Hermitte, who says they are all in their thirties and enthusiastic about a project which brings happiness to so many people:
“My grandmother receives it every month and she loves it. It also means that I tend to telephone her more often rather than less often, because we can talk about everything that is in the gazette. Each member of the family can also see the photos and messages their cousins, brothers, sisters and parents have sent which means it is also a way for us to keep in touch.”
Anne Briand, who lives near to St-Malo signed up with members of her family over a year ago for her parents, aged 84 and 90: “My parents do not live far from me, but the extended family is spread out and I have one daughter in Philadelphia, USA, so this is a way of bringing together news from everyone.
“I have a sister and a brother who contribute and together with our children there are 14 of us who write and send photos.
“It was particularly welcome in 2020 when it was so difficult to go and visit.
“We were less active because of confinement so there were fewer photo opportunities, but we sent photos of a bedroom renovation project that my parents could not come and see for themselves.
'It is an extremely good idea and easily affordable, particularly as you can share the costs. My parents really look forward to receiving Famileo every month'
“They keep them in a box so they can look back at them whenever they wish.”
The monthly subscription is €5.90 for an edition once a month, €9.90 once a fortnight and €17.90 once a week. Most subscribers are private individuals but there are a growing number of care homes which have signed up and distribute the paper to their residents.
This was especially welcome when residents had to keep to their rooms in the worst of the lockdown.
Ms L’Hermitte says as far as she knows they are the first company to have come up with this idea, but following their launch a company in Belgium has started a very similar newspaper.