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Last Updated: Monday, 19 April, 2004, 09:59 GMT 10:59 UK
Elderly get videophone technology
The videophone trial will last three months
Elderly and vulnerable people on Wearside are being given videophones to help them keep in touch with carers.

Sunderland City Council and Age Concern says the trial project in Sunderland is the first of its kind in the country.

The council's is providing six phones for Age Concern's befriending service - which will allow carers to "virtual visit" their clients.

If the three-month trial proves a success, the scheme could be extended to other areas.

Alan Patchett, director of Age Concern in Sunderland, expects the new technology will be an asset to his team of befrienders.

Virtual visiting

He said: "This will be virtual visiting for us.

"The videophones will enable us to see our members as well as talk to them on the line as we already do.

"It's certainly bringing new technology into the homes of some of our oldest citizens."

One videophone will be based at Age Concern's Sunderland headquarters and the other five will be installed in homes of people the organisation befriends.

Chief executive of Sunderland City Council Ged Fitzgerald said: "We'll be watching closely how this experiment develops.

"Once we evaluate how well the videophones are working, we hope to join Age Concern in training their befrienders to bring a new level of service to our oldest residents."

The next phase of the virtual visiting pilot scheme will see befrienders helping older people by dialling up council services they need.

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