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For an elderly person, is the tablet a good move from a desktop/laptop?


For an elderly person, is the tablet a good move from a desktop/laptop?

Hi! My dad is 92 and is having increasing trouble using a PC. I would
like to migrate him to an iPad/tablet setup. He only needs the
Internet, and I was thinking this would be easier for him than a
computer because it's mobile and even lighter than a laptop. My
questions is in regard to ease of use. Do you think this is the right
direction I should be moving him in? Anyone know about tablet use
for the elderly (other than learning the OS)? Moving from a PC, are
tablets simple enough to use, even for my dad to adapt to? Any
information that you can provide as to ease of use would be
appreciated. Thanks!

- Submitted by Kevin F.
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Elderly Person Computing

There is only one answer, ask him! Try and explain or demonstrate as best you can, then if there is an interest, take him somewhere they are on sale to try out different alternatives.

Laptops are a problem due to weight and mass, but going the other way, to a desktop, might be the best answer! Its up to him!

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iPad for elderly

I have introduced a few elderly people to the world of tablet computing in similar scenarios. Mostly Internet based research, news, videos and books. None of them have looked back. For limited computer users, the tablet makes much more intuitive sense too. They pick up the gestures quickly and have no worries. In fact they may wish they made the change sooner.

Have fun


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For an Elderly person, a mixed bag

As I have a 91 year old father who has never cottoned to a PC, my brother gave him an iPad for his 90th. He uses it with some difficulty, most effectively with news apps, like Yahoo Finance. He is otherwise in good cognitive shape but has no history as a computer user, having relied on my mother for e-mail.

On the plus size it is portable. On the negative, although you can expand the font size, some applications do not really adjust the page so you end up scrolling a lot. The real problem with my dad is neuropathy; he has very little feelings at his finger tips so he constantly brushing a trailing finger along the touch screen, which often leads to untoward effects. Additionally, hand-eye coordination is problematic.

So, if your objective is to get your dad using e-mail, I would not get a tablet without a keyboard. If he would like to surf, the tablet is fine. And if can use multi-media, my father loves seeing YouTube videos of operatic music but cannot access them by himself.

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In reply to: For an Elderly person, a mixed bag

Pogo sketch stylus will work very well. Probably won't need a keyboard

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Tablet aid

In reply to: For an Elderly person, a mixed bag

for people with neuropathy, larger fingers, or whatever else, buy a stylus--pen-like with sponge tip @$15. It's a great help for everything, specially playing GAMES (like mah jong)

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Great Idea

Hi Kevin,

I recently upgraded my grandmother (85) from a very sluggish desktop to an Asus Eee Pad Transformer.

A tablet was the best choice because the touch interface is more intuitive, the device is very portable, and there aren't many updates to do to it (antivirus and antimalware was always a concern with the desktop).

Most of the tablet fit into the price range I was looking in. Using CNET's review I narrowed it down to the Sony S, Samsung 10.1 Tab, Asus Transformer, and the iPad.

While I am a huge Apple fanboy, and prefer the simplicity of the iOS interface, I felt that the iPad was too dependant on a computer with iTunes. This was mainly due to my personal situation; it may be different for you.

So we bought her the Transformer with the keyboard dock. The idea was that, having used the desktop, she was more familiar with typing on a physical keyboard.

Right now, she is still learning how to use the device. She is struggling to get her email to send (a lot of them are staying as drafts... still working on this problem), but enjoys using the browser. Typing is difficult without the keyboard, and she has trouble navigating back to correct errors. Besides the browser (Googling) and email, she doesn't use many apps.

She has it for about two months now, and the learning curve is identical to what it was with the desktop. However, when she starts to understand the device better, I am confident she will like it better than the desktop.

My advice for you would be to narrow the number of device down, then if possible take you dad to the store to hold and feel each device. After that, as he starts to use it, gradually introduce him to more and more features. I made the mistake of showing my grandmother everything the tablet could do (taking pictures/videos, downloading apps, deleting apps, adding widgets, changing the wallpaper, moving icons, etc.). Stick to the basics: opening/closing apps, using the keyboard, moving the cursor to correct errors, etc.

One final warning would be to avoid the super cheap tablet. I was very tempted by their price, and they seemed to have just the features my grandmother needed, but the quality and support wasn't there.

- Maxwell

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Tablet or laptop

In reply to: Great Idea

Tablet is better (lighter and smaller) for someone who is using his machine for internet surfing, skyping and emails.
When you need more power and applications you must have a real computer.

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Using Transformer for email

In reply to: Great Idea

The Transformer is on my short list also. The person who will be using it is a heavy email user -- gmail and and ISP called Will those work with the Transformer?

He also likes online solitaire from AARP -- Any thoughts about that?

Chrome browser compatible?

Access will be through a wi-fi hotspot. Do you forsee any connection problems?

Thanks in advance for this additional information.

And thank you for your original post was was helpful

- Patricia

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For an elderly person, is the tablet a good move from a desk

Depends on how sharp his mind is still.
I have a small computer tech business, and work with the elderly from time to time. The biggest issue they face is remembering how to use the darn thing. I have sat down with some older folks, time after time, and they just can't remember what to do, no matter how many times they are shown how. I'm sorry, but that is just the facts. Someone who is 92 may not have the ability to use any kind of computer, ipad, tablet or anything else for that matter. So what should you do? Take him to a store that has the iPADs, and Tablets, and see if he shows any apptitude for understanding how to use it. He may be at the point in his life where you must face the fact that he can't do it.

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elderly & tablet

In reply to: For an elderly person, is the tablet a good move from a desk

why is it necessarly for elderly person to even think of using such advance technological apparatus?
stick with the simple pieces & simple tasks/
if he/she is ready to advance then go for it - but remember KISS (keep it simple stupid)
don't start 'throwing' the advance machines at them & then get frustrated trying to get them to remember 'how'/
if no learning occurs then stop/
if it's not fun then stop/

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Re: elderly & tablet - New!

In reply to: elderly & tablet

I totally agree with you. If our Parent(s) or Grandparent(s) feel comfortable with what they've been using and haven't asked or shown any interest in what is the newest techie gadget toy available - then as me Mudder would say, 'If it ain't broke, why tinker with it'?

I guess I'd be considered as a young Senior who will be turning 70 years young at the end of 2012. I have a curiosity and am eager to go to the next level for a new Techie Toy. I presently have a Desktop PC Windows XP Professional SP3 along with an IPod and a Samsung Advance Smartphone. I'm planning on getting an IPhone 4 or 5 at the end of the year when my contract expires.

I borrowed a Kobo Reader and Kindle eReader from our local library and wasn't overly thrilled with either of them. I've tried briefly browsing on an IPad and it didn't do much to peak or motivate me to rush out and buy one. I just didn't enjoy using any of them at the time. Who knows maybe in the future, but not at the moment.

I have spoken with a couple of Techie Guru's as I call them and they thought for my needs and interests that a Notebook or small Laptop rather than getting an IPad.
I love to write to friends and use IncrediMail which has Graphics and Animation's. I have never been a Fan of OE. I am occasionally on Facebook and You Tube. Plus am a Member of several Online Groups - , Knitting, Gardening, Health & Nutrition and Internet Radio .

I do think the person has to show some interest and be curious as well are able to comprehend how these things work. And if it becomes a chore or they're not feeling comfortable then maybe I would be thinking twice before getting either an IPad or another new Gadget - Techie Toy.

Thanks again for sharing your comments. I must say I thoroughly enjoy reading and learning things here on CNET. .

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Aged = Not-In-My-Back-Yard (NIMBY), very often.

In reply to: Re: elderly & tablet - New!

Current issues of Psychology Today magazine (Hardcopy & free-Internet copy) is proving that cognitive decline into emotionality often happens. Giving my Motorola Defy Smartphone with 400+ applications loaded into it gave a very big surprise to a cognitive-aged of seven years. Only the voice-distortion and talk-back "games" seemed enjoyable.

After my 14 day coma (1984), they allowed myself to go home: cognitive-age: 14 years, emotional age: 7 years old. I just played computer games: car driving/ crashing, since it was a car accident that caused my hemiplegia. As I "matured", I moved to "Civilization" (game simulation), then Dragon Naturally Speaking - DNS (commercial keyboard & screen replacer).
DNS allowed me to give commands, "type with my voice" (perfect spelling, grammar), and read text to me.

IMHO, personal & professional: DNS is better than a tablet. It covers many accents in many languages, is customized to each individual's vocabularly & voice.

Retired Chief Information Officer (1984), Australian Capital Territory.

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In reply to: elderly & tablet

You seem to think that the elderly are either stupid or senile. I'm 75 and was in at the beginning of computers. I taught computer science well before you were born. You NEVER stop learning. Sure things can be a little intimidating but remeber this. When computers first came on the scene they were extremely complex and needed you to understand computer language in order to use them.
Nowadays, tablets, iphones, e readers etc are incredibly easy to use and AGE is no barrier. As for trying to wean the old folks off PC's, why? There isn't a tablet out there yet that can equal the power of the modern PC.

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Stupid is as Stupid Does

In reply to: Why?

Hear, hear, "Why?" !!! I'm quoting Forrest Gump to only inject a bit of humour. Happy I host a small Tech Forum at a private site for Landscaping. Members range in age from 18 to waaaaay past 80. I also provide answers for real-life friends, regarding tech stuff. I've personally witnessed 70+ year old's adapt to a smart phone or tablet instantly and yet 30-something's toss them away in utter frustration! It really depends upon the person' desire for technology, their dexterity and learning curve. I bought my crew foreman (age 35) and best friend a Thrive for Christmas 2 years ago...he NEVER uses it and asked permission to regift it to his 13 year old daughter! WHY did I buy him a tablet to begin with? Because I had a Samsung Galaxy and he was enthralled with what I did with it, both in my personal and professional life. But, for whatever reason, his brain couldn't make the "jump" from desktop to tablet. He claims that he kept "accidently hitting all different apps"; would get impatient with the sensitivity of the virtual keyboard and the weirdest comment was "...I don't know how to hold the darn thing!" LOL Apparently, he'd lean it up against his steering column and hated that. Used a clipboard and hated THAT! Tried with just one hand...well, you get the idea. He never used the Kindle app but once, saying that he "felt like I'm not really reading, if it's not a paper book." And let me remind you...this guy is in his frickin' 30's!!!! Now, my 82 year old M.I.L. did research on her OWN DIME, visiting Barnes & Noble, Apple and Best Buy, and bought her own self a Thrive. She liked the heft and weight of it for her arthritic hands (loves the grip!). She Facebook's and Skype's our grandchildren who are in Uni in Scotland and Jordan, plays Angry Birds, and found and downloaded an app (all by herself) that features Old Timey movies that she enjoys. Her hearing is diminished so we bought her a Bose Bluetooth speaker for the movies but now she uses it to amplify her phone calls and to listen to Pandora when she's gardening.

Just as ALL women know, there is truly NO "One Size Fits All", the same can be said about tablets. Some people walk to work. Some bike. Some take transit and others drive. Tablets are just ONE version of how to "get from here to there."

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Elderly apptitude

In reply to: For an elderly person, is the tablet a good move from a desk

Aside from the fact of age, people's minds work differently. Sometimes it's helpful to write down the steps of how to do something that's new. Then, a person can refer to that written step-by-step instruction when they need to, and not feel stupid. Just saying. Tere

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it's not a matter of age

In reply to: For an elderly person, is the tablet a good move from a desk

I would have to agree that teaching someone of any age who has a cognitive deficit would be a challenge if not futile if the deficit precludes learning. However, I think your comment is a little too broad in its application, and you may be missing a business opportunity working with elderly clients. One's age does not determine capacity of learning. Instead, if there is no neurological reason why the individual should not be able to learn, you have to consider motivational factors and personality traits. I recently worked with an older couple about how to use their computer. When their grandson went to college, they were lost. I found that the best way to help them was to have them write down instructions as they are being shown what to do, and then have them do it themselves from their instructions. This helped me to understand how they learned information, and what was important to them. The husband eventually learn how to surf the Internet and access his e-mail, and beyond that, he didn't really care. The wife, on the other hand, just wanted someone to do it for her the matter how many times she showed an understanding of how to do it and used her notes. I have learned that not everybody wants to embrace technology, but they sure like what it does for them. If someone else can do it for them, then they like technology even better, that can be said for people of any age. Yet, I have worked with some elderly people that would run circles around the brightest person 60 years their junior. If a person is healthy, has a desire to learn, has a reason to learn something new, and find someone patient to help them, they will learn at any age. I do like your idea of having them go to a store to see what they like, but hopefully they are not overly intimidated by the technology and overwhelmed by the store itself.

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don't SHOW, Write a checklist

In reply to: For an elderly person, is the tablet a good move from a desk

It's not a memory problem, it's a difference in learning. For computer users, it is hard to understand how the "linear generation" thinks. If you sit down and show them how to do something, it won't work at all. They need a recipe card! Just write down a few simple steps, cutting down what you do to the least number of actions. On top of the cards, put a one word title, like "email", "news", "weather". And forget icons....they are just a source of confusion, even to us. Make each icon just the word, big. Match it to the recipe card. Ideally, the startup screen would have 4 or 5 big boxes each with a word for what they want to do. And where possible, make those actions the same for each activity.

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Eye Sight

I think eye sight should be considered, as well as whether the device will be used for typing. Bluetooth keyboards for iPad are available if you go that direction. Also the "siri" aspect of the iPad 3 might make "typing" easier when doing any of that.
I think it's a reasonable choice of eye sight is not failing to the point of using a small screen, AND that not too much computing power is needed and not too much typing is needed.

On the positive side, iPads, and tablets offer some fun and entertaining apps that might keep him busy.

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More on eye sight

In reply to: Eye Sight

I agree that people with sight loss might have problems with the tiny keyboard - but this is also a problem for those with less hand mobility and poor coordination. An external keypad with large keys which are lit like those on a mobile phone might help.

One of the most important things for the elderly is good light in which to work -most older people need much higher contrast with larger/blacker fonts in a range of sizes size. How compatible are these requirements with the inevitably small screen? It might mean that the web page or email you are browsing needs so much scrolling to see that something important is missed.

Older people who have macular degeneration to some degree also get distortion and gradual loss of their central vision - so a lightweight moveable device might mean they can angle it to see better. This condition affects large numbers of elderly people and is the leading cause of blindness in the elderly population in the UK (I cannot speak for elsewhere). Perhaps someone should develop an app for these devices to help those with central vision loss?

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Muscle, sight loss - well handled now ...

In reply to: More on eye sight

At the time of my brain-trauma (1984), I was a Conference Chairman, speaker, etc for many Australian disability organizations. In the last 40 years, there has been much progress, given the poor $$$ & priorities that we disabled people are given.

Most national disability organizations know of these technologies. Linux has many "free" - free of $$ and free for computer malware. Android & Apple operating systems are Linux related, coming from the Unix parent, so they also have similar freedoms.

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Definitely not!

While portability is great there are many problems with tablets, usually reduced eyesight(certainly for me and I'm not quite retired) is an issue, and nothing is better than a big screen to help one see what's on it. It's for that reason that I don't like laptops either. Also, for some elderly people, holding a tablet with one hand and navigating around the screen with a finger with the other hand is hard to do when they are weaker and unsteady. Then you have a virtual keyboard to type on too! I just can't see most elderly people being happy with a tablet.

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Surely not!

In reply to: Definitely not!

My kids were able to learn complex games and photo editing software with no manual. Myself, working with computers since I was 18, when I first got my PC (I was 45), had to read lots of manuals. At 50 I found it difficult at first to grasp the basics of internet and email. I have managed to evolve and now at 66 I keep using the latest software and using the PC in sophisticated ways, like editing a flight simulator panel while having simultaneously opened a flight simulator, a panel editor, a bitmap editor, a text document and a browser. Or else I write technical books where almost everything in MS Office is in simultaneous use. But I have to read a lot, to write down lists (or else I forget what I have to do next). I sometimes teach computing to elderly persons, and watch their progress (or lack thereof). My mother started using PCs aged 80 and, being still active as an architect, needed a 2 hour lesson to understand what was the function of a mouse! I also find a tendency by the elderly -- and by their teachers ehm - to try to grasp only the very minimum in order to use the PC. This brings in lots of trouble. I meet people who have used internet and email for two decades, yet they cannot explain me what is a file or a folder, let alone move them around: sooner or later, disaster strikes.

With so many new things that the elderly NEED to learn in order to stay in the game, a unnecessary change of paradigm (such as moving from a tactile-feedback keyboard and the hard-learned mouse into the tablet) is something that, IMHO, is to be avoided at all costs.



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Good question. At ages 70 and 72 my wife and I have started using iPads and find them easy to learn and generally easy to use. The internet home page print is a little small and I think the email presentation is a little cluttered but usable. Great as a reader as a kindle type presentation. Perhaps the spacing of items to touch and initiate are a little tight with larger fingers. We have gone to touch stylus use and find them helpful All in all I say go for it but perhaps consider a iPad 1or 2 to save a little on the investment. Hope that helps as a little arthritis seems to set in about this time of life and the ipad is much easier to hold and use rather than a laptop in a persons lap. I beleive another brand with teh same screen size would work equally well.

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Tablet vs. Laptop for elderly

Be wary. I think it depends on the skills and abilities of the person, not the exact age. Look carefully at every person. I have been working with a number of customers and relatives on computers for many years... this is just my thoughts... YMMV. I don't have an "answer", but some things to think about below:

Somewhere as you age it gets harder to "get" significant changes, including new technology. If a laptop or desktop is more familiar, then this may be better. If you have to change anyway (like XP to windows 7), then the tablet may be no more difficult than learning windows 7 quirks. Be careful, iPad is easier than most others I have looked at. Note that I have had great difficulty getting people (many much younger than 92!) to give up Outlook Express, which is not available with windows 7. And no, windows live is not a good match, it is significantly different. Users who could e-mail photos fine in OE can't get pictures to attach in Windows Live.

These people are smart in most cases, just this is new and it takes longer to learn... (for example, one relative who learned WordStar control key commands by himself at about age 60 on original IBM PC with two floppies is learning an iPhone now..and has a new Windows 7 computer) Almost everyone can learn, but you and they have to get past new tech changes that can appear as roadblocks.

Some elderly have more motor control with their hands than others. A tablet or iPhone requires good (not perfect) control for gestures, etc. Generally more control than a keyboard. If motor control is good, then a tablet is fine, if not it *may* be an issue. I have relatives that have issues with motor control, and the iPhone is somewhat harder to use because of that.

Note that so far the iPhone is a success with friends and relatives, but it is taking a while to learn how it works, and all the new things that go with a 4S when you are not young. (I had a learning curve on the original iPhone in 2007... and the new iPhone does more and is more complex now, so I would expect a learning curve, just be ready for that and the need for some support). Take it one step at a time. On the good side, It has sparked several 70+ users to start text a good step forward, and much easier than most smart phones or tablets. Ease of use is critical. It is also easy to snap a picture and e-mail good for all users. Note that everyone I have worked with on iPhone has good eyesight, if not a tablet, laptop, or desktop would be much better...

Look closely at the tasks that are desired, and then pick what is easiest and most familiar. This is not a simple answer, but one that needs to be looked at for each person. So far, everyone I have worked with has the iPhone or iPad as an addition to their more of a transition to new technology, may be another thought.

Sorry I don't have any "answers". Each case is somewhat unique. Good research and good luck!

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iPad for us old guys

In reply to: Tablet vs. Laptop for elderly

Most everyone is right on. It depends on the mental alertness of the person. I'm 92+ and use my iPad along with my Macbook Pro and PC and have no trouble syncing email, documents, spreadsheets or any software that is compatible. For all of you who are thinking of introducing your parent to the tablet word, get the best, get an iPad.

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Nursing home existence yet ??

In reply to: iPad for us old guys

I've in my hospice for the last several years, with many medical issues likely to send me to heaven anytime now. I have a HP Pavilion DV9 notebook (desktop replacement) on my nursing bed trolley. In bed it is connected to my TV (swivels around above my head) & wireless mouse (under the sheet or bed coverings). Small ear-phones allow You-Tube, newspapers, TV, radio, movies ... to be viewed - in or out of bed, without disturbing other people.

Hopefully I'll document my setup in Youtube, under my YT name: "grey0powerlessness".

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No tablet for me...

In reply to: Tablet vs. Laptop for elderly

My 82yo dad LOVES his laptop and I can't imagine him doing anything else. Bought my daughter a Kindle Fire for Christmas and it just hasn't really caught on with her which almost makes me wonder if Tablets in general might be more hype than anything else.

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ReL Tablet vs. Laptop for elderly.

In reply to: Tablet vs. Laptop for elderly

Thank you for sharing your marvellous response to this rather interesting and yes somewhat complex situation.
I'm a Senior who will be turning 70 at the end of the year. I consider myself still fairly intelligent as my little 'pee brain' seems to be still working but maybe not as quick or sharp as it once did.

I too am in the process of trying to decide what my next Techie Toy will be? I have a Desktop PC that has been a blessing. I am self taught and seem not to have any fear of using the computer. I'm using Windows XP Professional
but come April 2014 will no longer be able to get Updates.Consquently, will need to find another program ?
I don't think it will be Windows Live and not OE - No ! No! Probably Microsoft Windows 7 or Windows 8 ?
I definitely would be lost without having a computer. I don't know if you'd called it an 'addiction' but getting there.

I have never been a fan of OE, although I used it when I was working. When I got my first computer I started using IncrediMail and have continued using it. Even though it has quirks and not recognized by my local ISP. I love the
Graphics and Animations. I spend a fair amount of time writing to friends while listening to classical music and
browsing the Internet. I'm occasionally on Facebook and You Tube. Plus am a member of several Knitting groups
online. And I'm always trying to learn new 'techie' things whenever possible.

I have a Samsung Advance SmartPhone and an IPod which I've taught myself to use as I did when I first got my PC.
I'm planning on getting the IPhone 4 or 5 later this year. So now I'm in the process in deciding should I keep my
Desktop PC ? Or should I get a Notebook or small Laptop? I have played a little on an IPad, but wasn't overly thrilled
with it. The same was when I borrowed a Kobo Reader and Kindle eReader from our local Library.

Since I have Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis as well Essential Tremors I use a cane when I am out just in case
I take tumble.With that in mind, I can't see myself trying to juggle my tote bag, a cane and a Tablet and my groceries.
The IPhone and IPod are not a concern. As for Text messaging, I don't have a need for it at the present time..
Another thing is,I prefer using the mouse if possible. As for using a Touch Screen, I'm okay with it, but not sure if
I want to use it all the time.

I am wondering what you might suggest as my next new Techie Toy should be? I have spoken with a couple of
Techie Guru's as I call them. Both of them thought that a Notebook or something similar would be more to my liking
than an IPad ?

I have inquired about classes for Seniors interested in learning how to use all the latest Techie toys & gadgets
available today. It seems there is a lack of funding when it comes to programs for Seniors in that category.

I thank you for sharing with us regarding this topic.
Sincerely Sandra B

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What is good for a Sr Citizen, tablet or PC

In reply to: Tablet vs. Laptop for elderly

I am aged 76 years, reasonable health and vision.I do not know how a 92 yr old would behave.
As for me, think a PC would be preferable for the following reasons.
A 92 year old person would be weak and may not be able to hold tablet steadily and chances are that it may fall and injure him and also break.At all times he has to hold it on hand and would be tiresome. A pc would sit tight on a table and would require a chair, which would hold the person steadily. He could use both the hands and may also do some simple exercises while reading and operating the PC.He can sit straight or recline as his mood He can increase or decrease the fonts and at the same time read the contents fully.and could also engage with his relatives in the house. He need not concentrate on any one activity.
I think by all standards a PC would be suitable.

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Choice of computing device

Being a care giver and a computer tech I have to ask a few more questions... When you say your 92 years young father is having increasing difficulty with his computer, is it due to confusion and/or remembering how to do something, problems using the keyboard and/or mouse, or visual related?

When dealing with our seniors, especially ones who have used the same type of technology for an extended time, it is very difficult for them to learn something new the older they get. If the problem is confusion or remembering how to do something with the current computer, something new will just make everything worse.

If dexterity is an issue, there are larger keyed keyboards, track balls, ergonomic mice, or even touch pads that all can be connected to a desktop computer. Sometimes a "touchscreen" can be easier, but the seniors eye sight has to be taken into consideration... laptop or tablet screen resolutions/ fonts need to be taken into consideration too.

The previous poster who commented on the feasibility of taking your father to a showroom/store where he could interact with the different types of devices can go a long way to help answer these questions. Just remember... what seems normal or intuitive to you will not be the case with your father. Good luck in this challenge.

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