Oftentimes, due to my mobility limitations stemming from complex chronic illness, my social interactions are limited to those I can have over the computer. While I do miss the richness of my previous social life and strive to get back to the point where I have more of that, I have discovered two vibrant communities online that provide a truly unique experience in connecting with others that share my conditions and mobility considerations in both social and educational ways. Those communities are HealthBeMe and Riley. These apps, in different ways, work with the basic concept of connecting patients, people, with others who are in a similar place in life as they are so they can talk one on one, find a group, find a mentor, or find a whole community of those who may be, in some way, connected to them in a meaningful way.
Riley is an app currently in development and getting ready to be rolled out. It is being promoted with an ambassador program, allowing Instagram users to engage with the ambassadors, learning about their lives, and how an app like Riley would be beneficial for everyone who has any limitations in life, or chronic conditions. Riley works in a fashion similar to Tinder. You are able to set parameters for those that you’d like to connect with. You are able to swipe through profiles, and when you find someone you’d like to chat with, you are able to swipe right on their profile. Like Tinder, if they’ve also swiped on you, you are able to connect with that person. Riley’s mission is to promote a better life by connecting people with similar experiences, and their way of fostering that connection is on a one on one basis, creating connections on a grassroots basis. From Riley’s founder, Elizabeth Tikoyan, “Riley App is on a mission to tackle isolation in the lives of individuals with disabilities and illnesses, and with that, we are excited to create a platform that would help people with disabilities and illnesses to meet each other in a more effective manner. “ The app is due to launch soon, and more information is available here!
HealthBeMe takes the concept of connection in the disability community in a very different connection. They state that they are a place for people with health challenges to overcome the inevitable fears and anxieties present and fears of feeling like a patient. Per their website, “The healthcare experience makes people feel alone, confused and powerless. So we created an environment that gives people the information, the tools and the community they need to feel strong and confident. We call this experience, HumanCare.” With this concept of HumanCare, they have created “Hives” based on condition or limitation, filled with, as they state “people who give a damn”. They also help you create a personal health file so that you have control of your medical record as opposed to it being scattered all over between doctors. Each Hive has a Warrior in it, someone nominated from the HealthBeMe Hives who has significant experience with the condition to help mentor the group, direct discussion, and overall be a resource for the Hives. HealthBeMe is a web-based system, very streamlined in operation, and has proven to be an amazing resource not only for social and educational connections, but for managing my health and medical records, and giving me a lot more control, even when my mobility and chronic illness leaves me homebound for periods of time. You can find more information regarding HealthBeMe here!
Both of these programs are amazing resources for anyone who’s conditions or mobility limit their ability to have outside social connections, and even for those who have an active face to face social life, they can be an amazing resource to broaden your community! It can be incredibly depressing when you lose or have to modify your social life based on your health, or changes in your health and/or mobility, but finding resources like HealthBeMe and Riley is a big step forward into reclaiming a social life, just in a new way. And in each new way I learn and share, I choose joy!