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Wednesday, 17 July 2013 02:22

App applicable to senior Sisters

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Three years ago now, Andrew Dowling, who grew up in Newcastle, was working for one of the largest technology companies in the world and managing a staff of 160. Today, he works with just seven others – and he couldn’t be happier.  The turning point for Andrew, while studying for his MBA, was encountering the emerging field of ‘social entrepreneurship’, in which businesses create sustainable business models in order to address specific problems in society. “I still remember feeling the hairs on the back of my neck stand up when I realised that this was what I really wanted to do.”

Fast forward to today, and Andrew and his staff are further developing and promoting ‘Tapestry’, an app(lication) which runs on Tablet computers combined with a private social network designed for seniors and families. It allows users to exchange digital photos and messages easily and quickly. While most users are the ‘wisdom people’ of the community, Tapestry is relevant for anyone who has basic computer literacy but does not feel a need to constantly update knowledge and understanding to achieve the same outcomes. 

On developing Tapestry, Andrew needed guinea pigs – and he found them amongst the Dominican Sisters! After reading an article in a local newspaper, one of the Sisters contacted Andrew. Like many seniors (the congregation’s average age is 80), Sisters wanted to keep in touch with family members, especially younger generations, but also with each other, particularly when mobility is limited. 

Sr Jill Shirvington OP, a member of the congregational leadership team, says Andrew was more than happy to come on board and the Sisters found the app very applicable to their situations. It doesn’t even require an email address if the user prefers not to have one.

Andrew in turn found the Sisters “delightful” and said the Dominican commitment to lifelong learning was evident in his interactions with them.

Sr Denise Sullivan OP happily uses Tapestry to keep in touch with her only living sibling, Margaret, who is a missionary in Kiribati and a member of the congregation of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. 

The genesis of Tapestry owes something to Andrew’s grandmother and also his wife’s grandmother, now deceased. With family members living and travelling overseas, these matriarchs wanted to keep in touch, but not to be slaves to technology. As Andrew says, his grandmother is “a passionate user” and it can also be a way of ‘checking in’ rather than ‘checking up’ on older relatives and friends.         

“Tapestry puts ‘keeping in touch’ in the realm of relationship rather than guardianship, and the generation gap that can so easily exist is bridged, value adding for everyone concerned.”

To learn more, visit www.tapestry.net and watch the introductory video, or phone 8011 3842.

This story originally appeared in the July 2013 edition of Aurora Magazine, the official magazine of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.