Top Tablets For Seniors
A computer tablet, like the iPad, can be a great tool for aging seniors. Tablets take up less room than an imposing desktop computer. They’re lighter than a laptop. And they’re powerful—far more powerful than even the computer Ronald Reagan used when he was in the White House.
So which tablet is best?
The Technology Dilemma
Any time you talk about technology and seniors, you face a dilemma. Many innovations can benefit the aging population. But convincing an aging senior in your life to adopt the technology can be a herculean task. Here’s a few reasons why.
Many years ago, my sister gave mom and dad a microwave for Christmas. (This was before microwaves were ubiquitous, pre-installed appliances in the home.) Steph knew that our mom would love it, because she always needed to reheat her coffee. But what did mom actually use it for? Tupperware storage.
It took several years before mom consistently started taking advantage of her microwave oven (and once she did, she loved it, as we expected she would). But she was naturally defensive about new technology. Not every aging senior is a luddite,* but it’s a factor to consider when you’re trying to decide which tablet to purchase—if any!
Growing up in our home, we changed the channel on the television set with a pair of pliers, because at some point, someone broke the channel dial. Later in life, when remote controls became all the rage, they often became the source of rage because if you accidentally pushed the wrong button, none of the buttons seemed to work.
This is the environment in which our aging loved ones lived the bulk of their lives. So now, when we put a mobile phone or tablet in their hands, we might as well be giving them a live grenade! Many fear that they’re going to break something.
There’s also a generalized fear of the Internet. We’ve all been conditioned, for better or worse, by the nightly news warning of Internet scams that target the elderly. Your loved one may fear that surfing the web is tantamount to broadcasting their social security number and bank account to the world.
It is a physiological reality that memory function fades as we age. Our brains just don’t process information as well. This makes new learning difficult. If you haven’t been using mobile computing devices (like a smartphone or tablet) for several years, learning how to do so in your golden years can be daunting.
Evaluating The Options: What makes a tablet good for seniors?
Open up just about any webpage that reviews tablets, even those that review tablets for seniors, and you’ll see a common list of attributes that are compared. Screen size. Weight. RAM. Battery time. Processing speed. Price.
We don’t think those are nearly as important to aging seniors as the following.
If you want your aging loved one to have a tablet, first ask yourself, why? Many adult children want to stay connected with their aging parents, either through social media apps like Facebook or Instagram, or through two-way visual communication. This makes sense, especially if you’re a remote caregiver. You can’t be there to see mom or dad, so FaceTiming is the next best thing.
Ease of adaptation to use
It’s one thing to talk about tablets being easy and intuitive. But, as mentioned above, our aging parents didn’t grow up with this technology. What’s intuitive to us might be foreign to them. So it’s doubly important that the tablet be easy to learn how to use.
If the person you’re thinking about is in their late 80s, the simpler the commands and UI (user interface), the better. If they’re a bit younger, consider tablets with more functionality and a slightly longer learning curve.
And don’t forget about charging. If your loved one has Parkinson’s Disease or a tremor-related disorder, it could be exceedingly difficult to plug in the device for recharging. In that case, wireless charging can help make the device easy to use.
Where and how your aging loved one will use the tablet should also guide your decision. If you think they’ll be using it outside of their residence, will they know how to find and connect to new wifi networks? Is it only going to be used in their home? Do they already have an Internet connection and wifi at their home?
These questions alone will tell you whether or not you need a tablet with built-in network capability or one that just connects via wifi. If you choose an always-on model, you’ll have to factor in the ongoing expense of a wireless carrier data plan and not just the upfront cost of the device itself.
Entertainment and Web Surfing
Entertainment and web surfing are really just subsets of purpose alignment. We include it here as a caution.
To most of us, our smartphones and tablets are an endless source of entertainment. We love being able to navigate the Internet and discover oodles of new information. So naturally, we want our aging parents to enjoy this as well. But remember my anecdote about the microwave oven; it’s entirely possible that mom or dad will use the tablet for one or two functions alone. Don’t assume they’ll even want to use it for reading the news or playing a game. You could be spending more than you need to if your get the newest, most powerful tablet on the market.
With these factors in mind, we’d like to recommend three different models for three different reasons. Which one is right for your loved one is up to you.
Best for staying connected
For staying connected, we recommend any one of the Apple iPad models, mostly because FaceTime is a native app on the iOS and iPhone usage is ubiquitous. But even if mom or dad has an iPad and you have an Android device, you all can download an app like Google Duo and achieve the same face to face communication.
Keep in mind that you’ll want to arrange the iPads home screen to have only the most important apps if your aging loved one is prone to confusion.
Best for simplicity – GrandPad
The GrandPad, as its name implies, was designed and developed with the elderly population in mind. It’s very simple, so it has limited functionality but the apps it does have were carefully curated for aging parents. The user interface has big icons. A built-in wireless connection is part of the design. And help via two-way audio communication is always just a tap away.
The GrandPad is available to anyone, regardless of the wireless provider you use or the home health/home care agency you employ. However, be advised that in addition to the price tag (around $200 for the tablet), you can expect a $40 per month plan for unlimited data (through Consumer Cellular). That’s a little pricey, given how little data your aging loved one is likely to use. It’s also an ongoing cost—one you won’t need if you choose a wifi-only tablet.
Best on the cheap
There’s no need to get caught up in the Apple or Samsung brand names. The ASUS ZenPad Z301M-A2-GR 10.1-Inch Tablet will run you about $250 with all the bells and whistles you could possibly want. Its Android operating system will allow you to set up the home screen to have as few apps as you want AND you can place them around the home screen the way you want (as opposed to Apple’s iOS which automatically places app to fill the screen—left to right, top to bottom).
We hope this helps you make a sound decision for your mom or dad. If you need further assistance, Ovation Home Care can work with you to find the right tablet for your aging loved one. Ask about it during your free in-home consultation.
*See this Wikipedia article for an explanation of the term, Luddite. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luddite