Tom and Jean Fussell learning to use their tablet with Red Cross volunteer Jo

In this day and age you can stay connected to your nearest and dearest with the touch of button. You can Skype your cousin in Canada and WhatsApp a picture of Meera the cat to your sister. You can even share your holiday snaps with friends on Instagram.

But only if you know how.

Tom and Jean Fussell did not. The couple from Radstock, both in their eighties, felt cut off from their loved ones dotted across the globe.

They had bought a tablet in the hope they could stay in touch. But they hadn’t learnt how to use it.

“It’s all new to us. We were brought up in a different era,” Jean said.

“When we went to school we had chalk and slate and a pen you had to dip in ink.”

But with a little help from a British Red Cross volunteer, that was about to change.

Feeling isolated

At the end of last year, Tom and Jean were referred to the Red Cross’ support at home service after being identified as feeling isolated.

The couple are proud parents to three children and grandparents to seven grandchildren. But while some live nearby, others are in far-flung parts of the world.

The Fussells’ home is also situated at the top of a steep hill in the countryside. Friends don’t visit as often as they used to.

Our support at home service funded by Land Rover helps alleviate rural isolation by connecting people to family and friends.

In Tom and Jean’s case, that meant getting them online.

“Tom and Jean were very intent on learning how to use their tablet,” said Red Cross worker, Jo Stone.

Fortunately Jo is used to helping people with all sorts of requests as tackling feelings of isolation is always personal. While some might feel better finding a social club they enjoy, others might want to learn how to drive.

Jo is used to adapting to people’s needs and didn’t hesitate to help Tom and Jean with theirs.

Getting connected

“I have a Facebook profile and go on there every now and again. So I knew enough to be able to relay that information to Tom and Jean,” Jo said.

She helped the couple set up a Facebook profile on their tablet and showed them the ropes on how to use it.

“Jo was brilliant,” Tom said.

“She has all the patience in the world. When we finished, Jean could use it well.”

Tickled pink

Since setting up their Facebook profile the couple have received birthday wishes and seen photographs of new babies. They also enjoyed seeing a fish tank they gave their son in his house in Edinburgh.

“At Christmas we saw photos of our grandson in Japan and it tickled us pink,” Jean said.

Before retiring, Tom had worked as a carpenter all his life. Jean had worked in manufacturing, making corsets for a local company. Later she made shoes for Clarks and gloves for Dents.

“I used to like messing around in the garden but now my home and my children are my priorities. I want to see what’s going on and it all comes up on Facebook,” Jean said.

Volunteers needed

The Red Cross support at home project that helped the Fussells runs in rural parts of Bath and North East Somerset. It is a free service that offers up to six weeks of support by providing either home visits or telephone support.

Our dedicated volunteers help people regain the confidence to live independently following a crisis or feelings of isolation from living in remote countryside.

Right now we’re looking for more volunteers to help deliver this service. Could you commit to a few hours a week to support people in your local area like Tom and Jean?

If interested in volunteering in Bath and North East Somerset please call Nia Hall on 0117 301 2603 for a friendly chat, or email

Don’t live in the Bath area? Browse volunteer roles across the rest of the UK

P.S If you’re Tom or Jean and you’re reading this right now, do ‘like’ us or say hello!