Studies have shown that seniors who stay connected with friends and loved ones are happier and healthier than their solo counterparts. While computers and smartphones can give Grandma the ability to access e-mail, Facebook and countless photos and updates about the grandkids, navigating gadgets can be daunting for anyone who hasn’t grown up clicking away on a keyboard and mouse, or familiar with how a touchscreen works. Luckily, there are cellphones, tablets and computers designed specifically with seniors in mind.
Samsung designed the Jitterbug5, $99, cellular phone especially for seniors. Flip it open and you’re greeted with large, raised, well-lit buttons that are easy to feel. The speakerphone is loud and clear for the hard-of-hearing and the interface has “yes” and “no” buttons so as to be less confusing. Available 5-Star Medical Alert service allows users to instantly connect with an agent who can answer simple medical questions or dispatch emergency services to their location using GPS, if the situation requires. A long-lasting battery promises up to 25 days of standby time.
Caregivers will love the GoPlan no-contract cellular plan that accompanies the Jitterbug. Starting at $25/month, GoPlan includes MedCoach, which provides medication reminders, and the GreatCall Link, which lets caregivers easily check on a loved one from afar. GreatCall Link allows you to download an application to your phone or computer that monitors the status of the user. You’re notified if their phone is without power, and whenever they contact the 5-Star line. Automated “check-ins” touch base with Grandma, asking her how she’s feeling today and the responses are available for you to see through the GreatCall Link application. In this way, you can be assured she’s doing OK even when you’re not able to call yourself.
GreatCall also sells a Touch3 Smartphone, $149.99. It has all the same safety features as the Jitterbug5, but with a touchscreen designed with seniors in mind with large easy-to-see buttons and an intuitive interface with all the shortcuts you need displayed in prominence.
There are three tablets on the market right now that offer seniors different advantages.
While not designed specifically for seniors, the Kindle Fire HDX 7” can be a great option for Grandpa and Grandma. The 16GB ad-free version runs about $194, and since ads can be confusing to novice users, it’s recommended that seniors opt for ad-free. The Kindle will require a bit of setup. It’s best if a tech-savvy caregiver walks through the set up, downloading and organizing applications. Caregivers may want to consider enabling parental control restrictions so as to disable in-app purchases or even limit the user’s ability to install or delete applications.
Once it’s set up, a huge selling feature of the Kindle is the Mayday button. It provides live, on-device support from a customer service representative who’ll walk you through any feature, available for free, 24/7. It works as a remote login, allowing the tech support rep to actually perform for you the function that’s causing you grief – perfect for those needing a little extra help figuring things out.
AARP recently partnered with Intel to create the ‘RealPad tablet’ (http://www.aarprealpad.org), designed with seniors in mind. Priced at $149 when purchased through ‘Wal-Mart’ (www.walmart.com/Realpad), it includes a one-year AARP membership to sweeten the deal. It comes out of the box pre-loaded with tons of senior-friendly apps and games, which makes it totally plug-and-play, and a bunch of video tutorials designed to walk you through the myriad of things they may need help with. It includes a 24/7 telephone help line, but it’s not as cool as the Kindle’s Mayday button. Yet it’s a great option for those without a tech-savvy loved one available for initial set-up assistance.
Unlike the previous two tablets, the GrandPad doesn’t require a Wi-Fi connection; instead, it connects through Verizon Wireless’ 4G LTE network, eliminating the need for Internet, router and the skills to install and maintain this hardware. Upon arrival, the user is introduced to the device through a video chat orientation with a customer service representative who personalizes the tablet completely, setting up their connection to Facebook, e-mail and phone. Access to this helpline is available forever. They even load the device with their favorite music videos.
E-mails and text messages are sent via voice recognition software, so no typing is required. An included stylus makes the touchscreen easier to use for shaky fingers. Charge it with the included docking station, eliminating any fumbling with a power cord. Users can video or voice chat with anyone on their contacts list, but incoming calls from unknown numbers are blocked. The device does not connect directly to the Internet, preventing malware and virus concerns. Games can be played interactively, too. While there is no up-front cost for the device, users pay an ongoing $60/month fee, with no long-term contract. It’s 100 percent insured, so lost or broken devices are replaced free-of-charge.
Lastly, if you’re looking for a desktop computer, consider a Telikin. Let’s face it, most seniors are overwhelmed navigating traditional computer screens and are easily confused when windows just “disappear” or they’re typing and they look up to find they’ve navigated to a completely different screen. Telikin’s interface design retains the functionalities of the personal computer, but simplifies the navigation that can be so confusing for those not technically-savvy. The Telikin Breeze offers an 18-inch touchscreen with built-in speakers, webcam with mic, wired keyboard and mouse, 16 GB HD, and a custom interface with built-in apps and Wi-Fi for $699. The 22-inch model, the Telikin Elite II, is $1,079.