While we tend to think about using tablet devices in classrooms or other learning environments involving children and youth, there is another demographic that is starting to realize how incredibly helpful tablets can be in their lives — seniors.
Not only are tablets much lighter and more portable than desktop (certainly) or laptop computers, they also offer a wide range of other benefits that are particularly helpful to those who are aging.
No mouse required
It’s probably something that we don’t think about all that often because we take it for granted, but the lack of a mouse device to control a tablet can be particularly helpful to seniors who struggle with dexterity issues.
A recent study conducted by researchers at Michigan State University (http://www.futurity.org/elderly-tablets-929052/) verifies this. Shelia Cotten, professor of media and information at the university, said that the muscle control required to use a mouse can be difficult for adults as they get older.
“A certain level of muscle control is needed,” she said. “And some older adults have shaking issues, in addition to muscle-control issues in their hands and arms.”
Removing the idea of clicking a mouse and replacing it with a physical movement like a tap also makes the device feel more friendly, even to those who are uncertain about using technology, Cotten said.
“It helps to ease their tech anxiety,” she said.
Easier to read
The ability to increase the size of text on a tablet device makes it incredibly desirable for seniors who feel more comfortable with large print for reading.
Elliott Morrice of Concordia University helped author a recent study that investigated using tablets as visual aid devices, and discovered that a device like an iPad can be just as effective as a more traditional method.
“What was interesting to note was that it didn’t matter what technology was used to do the magnification: an iPad worked just as well as a traditional device like a closed circuit television system,” Morrice wrote (http://www.krdo.com/lifestyles/healthy-seniors/tablets-ipads-make-good-investments-for-elderly/38881592).
The study also showed that the tablets, though unfamiliar to many users at first, became easier to operate as users became familiar with the device. This adaptability factor is also important for seniors, who may not have experience in using a touchscreen.
Tablet devices can also aid seniors in communication, ranging from typing to closed captioning and even video calling.
Most tablet devices offer a key feature in the ability to talk to text, which eliminates a need for typing. This is especially important for those suffering from arthritis or other physical limitations.
In addition, some tablets come equipped with the ability to turn on closed captioning services, which is incredibly helpful for those who are hearing-impaired.
And in a recent article in the New York Times, the ability for older adults to be able to make video calls easily from a tablet device has helped not only to strengthen communication with loved ones, but also improved mental health.
“Being disconnected leads to isolation and depression,” Colin Milner, the chief executive of the International Council on Active Aging, said in the article (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/12/your-money/making-technology-easier-for-older-people-to-use.html). “So there’s a significant incentive to getting people connected.”
A single tablet device can serve as a reader, a computer, and a connection to the Internet. Because of these multifaceted capabilities, Interim Healthcare (a healthcare organization that includes senior care) has recommended tablet devices as good investments for seniors. And researchers — including Cotten — are predicting that tablet use among seniors will continue to grow at substantial levels over the next several years.
“It’s all about older persons being able to communicate, to stay in contact with their social networks, and just not feel lonely,” Cotten said.