Apple created a new market segment of computer tablets when it introduced iPad in 2010. I bought my first iPad upon its introduction and fell in love with it. It is now an essential device in my daily life. Today, Apple no longer has the monopoly on computer tablets. There are several others in the market e.g. Samsung’s Galaxy and Amazon’s Kindle Fire; and consumers have a lot more choices.
While I know from experience that my iPad (loaded with games and apps) could be a popular icebreaker when I meet tech-savvy kids, I have only recently come to appreciate that such devices are also a game-changer for technology-shy seniors, who have often been left out of the consumer technology equation. At best, simplified versions of popular devices or services – such as email that does not require a PC and large-button, single-function mobile phones – have been launched as an afterthought for the oldest consumers. Computer tablets are different; they have changed the technology landscape for seniors.
Usability even with impairments
For seniors, tablets address some of the biggest traditional barriers to technology. Arthritis and other impairments often limit a senior’s fine motor skill – a disability not compatible with mouse and keyboard requirements. Tablets deliver touch screen technology, facilitating usage and minimizing user frustration.
Tablets are more simply designed than computers, usually with just one button to change programs. They are easy to use and not intimidating. They are portable and do not take up a lot of room. They allow users to easily connect with friends and family – especially with grandchildren – through email, video calls, photo sharing, or social media websites like Facebook. Once users are comfortable with the tablets, they could browse the web, watch the news and even shop online. And once they discover the joy of downloading and using apps, their lives will be transformed. For example, they can brain-train, learn a new language, get new recipes, play solitaires, and check baseball scores. In fact they become included in the new digital world.
Tablets also offer an improvement over printed books. For those with poor vision, a once-enjoyed activity like reading could be a thing of the past. However, a tablet would change all that. Downloading books avoids a trip to a bookstore or library. Seniors can also easily adjust the screen brightness and text to suit their needs.
Use tablets for healthcare
Tablets also enable greater independence for the elderly through remote evaluation and monitoring. From the diagnostic side, tablet-base mobile assessment tools provide a rapid assessment of a patient’s ability to complete mobility-related tasks. Tablets also enable ongoing care. In addition, there are apps that could be directly downloaded for own use in healthcare e.g. to measure heart rate, monitor food intake and exercise, or set up diary of reminders to take medications.
Tablets are an enabling tool for ‘ageing in place’, which means to have the ability to live in one’s own home comfortably, safely and independently as one ages. This is the wish of most people. According to one study, 78% of adults between the ages of 50 and 64 report that they would prefer to stay in their current residence as they age. The trend of ageing in place is also desirable from the perspectives of society and economy. It encourages inter-generational connectivity and minimizes the cost of institutional care. An example of the use of a smart tablet for this purpose is shown in the video below.