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Kiwi company launches easy-to-use tablet for seniors to stay socially connected

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

If you’ve ever bought a mobile phone, iPad or other tablet for your parent or grandparent, you’ll know that the technology we take for granted can be exceptionally challenging for our senior generation.

Recent research shows that their health and wellbeing can be affected by isolation, with inevitable loneliness accentuated by the global pandemic. Sadly for many older Kiwis, that’s just the way it is.

For one Matamata family, the lack of appropriate technology became so frustrating that they decided to develop their own device. Lois Caldwell had been happily using an iPad for years, but as she reached her 90’s with family throughout the country and overseas all wanting to stay in touch, she was less able to keep up with all the changes.

Caldwell’s daughter and Kitcal co-founder Julie Caldwell says that nothing on the market provided the simplicity they were looking for so together with colleague Julie Blackwell they took their inspiration from Lois’s design and began a project that has now produced Kitcal - a personalised tablet built specifically for seniors.

"The key is Kitcal’s simplicity," Caldwell says. "We consulted experts across many fields to keep ourselves focused on essential features and we just kept working on identifying and removing barriers in existing technology - everything from finding suitable fonts and symbols to using a magnetic charger."

Co-founder Julie Blackwell said they found that using a keyboard and connecting to the internet were the biggest problems for seniors. "We eventually eliminated the keyboard altogether, using a mix of response buttons and pre-set emojis instead. And because our tablet comes with a pre-installed SIM card on Kitcal’s shared data plan, it’s ready to go straight out of the box with no worrying about an account or setting up wi-fi."

Vodafone Chief Enterprise Officer Lindsay Zwart says the digital services company is proud to provide the connections for Kitcal’s tablets.

"The Kitcal tablets will help create a more digitally inclusive Aotearoa, keeping senior people in touch with loved ones whilst maintaining their independence," she says. "In a year that has accelerated digital uptake while requiring us to isolate at home at times, it is more important than ever that all New Zealanders, from our tamariki to our kaumātua, feel empowered with access to easy-to-use technology."

The Kitcal tablet receives messages, photos and videos and has a unique calendar display in which family members can remotely set events and reminders. Seniors living on their own will enjoy the ‘check in’ function, a short-cut to messaging that gives peace of mind to family. They can also request a voice or video call at the touch of a button.

"Everything the user needs is included with the tablet," said Blackwell. "We’re really mindful that this is a Kiwi product to meet our needs, so there will soon be the option to switch the complete tablet display between English and te reo Māori."

Family and friends the world over simply download the free Kitcal Companion app to communicate with the tablet. Companions are encouraged to keep in touch as frequently as they do with the rest of the family, keeping their seniors in the loop with the day-to-day sharing of news.

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