Monthly Archives: March 2011

iPad for Seniors: 3 Major Advantages Over Standard Computer

The new iPad 2 officially went on sale last Friday, and thanks to Carl Burnstein, I had a chance to get some first-hand experience with the new iPad. As I was oooing and aaahhing over the tech, I came to appreciate some major advantages that the iPad offers to seniors.

1. Touch Screen

Limitations in hand dexterity can make it extremely challenging for seniors to control a mouse. It often takes a lot of time and practice for older seniors to become accustomed to a mouse. There are som pretty great training resources out there like Senior Net’s Mouse Training and the City of Seattle’s online mouse training. Still, there are times when training is simply not enough to help seniors cope with dexterity and mouse control challenges. The alternative has often been teaching older seniors key board short cuts to help reduce the need for a mouse. But the iPad changes all this. The iPad’s touch screen makes it extremely easy for seniors to control the device. Launching a program is as easy as tapping large, easily visible icons — a much more senior friendly alternative to controlling a mouse. Websites can easily be enlarged by using the pinch-out zoom feature. This is a powerful capability for seniors, as it allows them to instantly increase characters and text to an easily readable size.

2. Extremely Easy to Share Photos

The iPad makes it extremely easy to email photos and to save photos received via email. This ease of use boils down to one notable characteristic of the iPad — it lacks an accessible file structure. This is often perceived as a major downside for techies. But for seniors, the hidden file structure poses a significant strength.

To email a photo, you locate the picture in your Photos app, tap the “send” menu option and tap email photo. To save a photo you’ve received via email, just click the attachment and an option window will pop up (see right). Then tap “Save Image” and presto, the picture is automatically saved to your “Photos” app.

The lack of a visible file structure means that seniors can easily save and send pics via email without having to tell the computer whether the photo is located (or should be saved to) the desktop, my documents, my computer, etc. Also, when downloading photos, some users’ pictures might end up in a temp folder or in a downloads folder — this can make it challenging for many people to find and retrieve downloaded files.

3. The iPad 2 is Skype Ready

More and more seniors are using Skype to stay connected to loved ones. With the iPad 2 front camera, seniors no longer need to deal with hooking up a web cam to their computers. Getting Skype ready involves setting up an account and downloading the Skype app. Thats it.

Seniors Appreciate the iPad

The iPad isn’t just a trendy piece of technology. Seniors are seeing real benefits. Just a few days ago, Elder Gadget shared a video of seniors living at Balfour Senior Living in Louisville, Colorado who are finding uses for the iPad. Here’s the video…


With all it’s advantages (many of which aren’t even touched on in this post), the iPad does pose some disadvantages for seniors — most of which are directly tied to passwords. Each time a user downloads a new app, s/he needs to enter in a password. Also, the iPad’s browser does not have password memory capabilities. This could pose a hefty disadvantage for older seniors who may have difficulties remembering passwords.

Many thanks to Paul Burnstein for brainstorming with me the advantages and disadvantages of iPads for senior.

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Posted by on March 13, 2011 in Uncategorized


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3 Important Facebook Privacy Questions

Last May I started teaching social media classes for seniors through OASIS. Each and every time, participants have presented a host of super-savvy questions related to privacy and security. Here are three main questions raised about privacy settings and Facebook:

  1. Who can see my personal information and updates?
  2. Why did Facebook raid my personal email address book?
  3. What if I don’t want to accept a friend request?

1. Who can see my personal information and updates?

This is a gargantuan question that deserves a course all to itself. The most important thing to remember is that users have some pretty serious control over who can see what in Facebook. The golden key is Facebook’s Privacy Setting page. (You find this page using the “Account” drop-down menu located in the upper right hand corner of your main FB window.) The degree of control offered through these settings is immense — and poses a double-edged sword. Put simply, the sheer number of privacy options can drive a person crazy.

Here some big-picture highlights on controlling personal information and updates:

  • You can control whether content is shared with everyone, friends of friends, or friends only. Content you share includes your status, photos, bio, birthday, contact info, etc. If you’re feeling particularly energetic, you can organize your friends into lists and set certain content to be visible only to the specific list you’ve defined. Control over these sharing settings can be found at Account > Privacy Settings > Sharing on Facebook
  • You can control how people find you on Facebook. These settings allow you to determine who can search for you on FB, who can send you friend requests and messages as well as who can see your education, work, city and hometown. These settings can be specified to friends only, friends of friends, and everyone. Be careful: If you set everything to the strictest available privacy setting, people may have a harder time finding you on Facebook. Control over these settings are at Account > Privacy Settings > Connecting on Facebook.
  • You can control whether people can find your Facebook listing using public search (like Google). When this setting is enabled, someone can “Google” you and obtain a preview of your public profile. Without proper privacy settings in place, this could be quite revealing. To tighten privacy, this option can be turned off. (Alternatively, you can set privacy controls to determine what information is visible via public search.) You can turn public search settings on and off at Account > Privacy Settings > Apps and Websites > Public Search.

For an in-depth look at Facebook privacy settings, take a look at Mashable’s post Facebook Privacy: 10 Settings Every User Needs to Know. Their post provides a fantastic run-down of privacy settings complete with helpful screenshots.

2. Why did Facebook raid my personal email address book?

I hear this one a lot. Some people are under the impression that once you sign up for Facebook, FB will automatically rummage through your personal email address book and send a mass email to everyone. One woman shared that FB did this to her and the result: Facebook sent friend requests on her behalf to everyone in her email address book.  Please Note: Facebook will NOT *automatically* raid your personal email address book!

What’s happening in these cases is the result of suggestive action through design. (Check out the overly exaggerated example to the left.) When someone first signs up for an account, they have the option of granting Facebook temporary access to a personal email address book. The page design for this step of the process is set up so that the address book option appears to be a mandatory next step. It’s not. Someone can sign up for a Facebook account without going through this process.

But, Facebook is a social platform, so it just works better when you’re connected to people you know. What this option actually does is pretty simple.  With your permission, Facebook uses email addresses in your address book to let you know which of your email contacts are also on Facebook. After seeing which of your email contacts are also on Facebook, you then have the option of individually selecting contacts who you would like to (a) connect with on Facebook and/or (b) receive an invite to join Facebook, if they don’t already have an account.

3. What if I don’t want to accept a friend request?

At first glance, this is pretty simple and straightforward.  If you don’t have a Facebook account and don’t want one, you can pretty much just ignore the invite. If you are on Facebook, you’ll have the option of either “confirming” and accepting the friend request, or clicking “not now”.

Important Privacy Information: This is where things start getting a little tricky.  If you click “Not Now”, the friend request will be tucked away in “Hidden Requests”. This means that everyone tucked away in “hidden requests” can see your public (“Everyone”) posts in their personal news feed.

The solution: Either decide to permanently delete the friend request or confirm the request. Also, it’s important to know that “hidden request” people can only see your “Everyone” posts. So, if you’ve got privacy settings ratcheted down to friends only, “hidden request” people will not see your updates. TechCrunch has an excellent post about this Facebook Defacto Follow Feature.


Posted by on March 11, 2011 in Uncategorized


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eReaders Pave the Way for Senior Literature Enthusists

When looking for the next thriller to read, it’s not uncommon for seniors to seek out a large print version — it’s easier on the eyes and can make reading more enjoyable. Long term care facilities often have a well-stocked supply of large print books.  Still, seniors’ reading options are limited because let’s face it, large print books just aren’t as commonplace as standard print.

But with eBooks and eReaders saturating the market, there’s very little reason to limit reading options to print. eReaders have the capacity to vastly expand the selection of books that seniors have access to. Font sizes can be adjusted and with Project Gutenberg, thousands of books are available for free.

Here’s a video of a 99 year old woman from Portland, Oregon who rediscovered her love of reading with the help of an iPad…


She certainly finds the iPad useful, but with a price point starting at around $500, this may not be the most feasible option. Not to mention, if the device will be used primarily (or solely) to read books, a more optimal solution might be to invest in an eReader like a Nook or Kindle.

eReaders certainly have practical implications for expanding reading options for the individual. Long-term care establishments such as CCRC’s, assisted living facilities and nursing homes could also offer eReaders to residents as a way to expand seniors’ options. Many universities now have programs that allow students to check out tech equipment like iPads. Care facilities could invest in eReaders and implement similar check-out systems.


Posted by on March 7, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Visiting Seniors — Does Skype Count?

Aging in Place Technology Watch recently published a post about China mandating adult children to visit their aging parents. Here’s what the Aging in Place blog shares:

The Chinese are now experiencing the law of unintended consequences — their one-child policy created a downstream eldercare issue. No siblings to split the responsibility, dispersed families and a government worried about the cost of care. So they have proposed a law mandating that family members visit their aging parents at a frequency to be named, plus ‘pay medical expenses for the elderly suffering from illnesses and provide them with nursing care.”

I wonder — what is a visit — does Skype count? A phone call? How can this be verified? This was based on a very real worry by the government that the social net programs will be overwhelmed by 2020 (250 million over the age of 65). So isn’t the exact same phenomenon happening in the US? And what does it mean to the future of safety net programs if 20% of US women had no children at all?

This post really got me thinking about technology and how it’s used every day to help bring us closer together. People across the world — including seniors — are using Facebook, Twitter and Skype to keep in touch with distant family members.  Many assisted living facilities have integrated Skype into regular activities programming for residents.  Cedar Sinai Park, for example, has a Skype-ready computer lab and also offers training and tech support to residents using Facebook and Skype.

Still, tech will never replace a hug.

My mother loves watching videos of her grandchildren and viewing new photos of the little munchkins on Facebook. But all the videos in the world won’t satiate the overwhelming desire to wrap her arms around those grandkids.  No, tech doesn’t replace hugs. Technology is the bridge that allows us to see the smiles, hear the laughs and stay in touch when those person-to-person visits aren’t possible.


Posted by on March 5, 2011 in Uncategorized


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iPhone App Assists with Medication Management

With a plethora of apps on the market, it’s no surprise that there’s an app to assist with medication management. After all, “there’s an app for that”, right?

Just a few days ago, Gizmodo featured Pillboxie on their blog. Pillboxie is an iOS app designed to help people manage their medications using a straightforward visual interface.  Pillboxie gives users the ability to schedule reminders, customize meds with a choice of 40 different shapes and colors, and check off meds that are “due today” as the day progresses.

The site 148 Apps has a review of Pillboxie where they outline several strengths and advantages offered up by the app. However, 148 Apps also points out some important shortcomings:

For instance, you can’t set reminders for any time other than on the hour. There are only pill images so even though you can still enter liquid details, it’s not as aesthetically pleasing as with pills. You can’t export the medication details by emailing them or even printing directly, which would have been really useful. Finally, you can’t enter any information other than medication names. It would have been nice for a note feature to be included so that you can input other pertinent pieces of information such as dosage.

But not to worry, there’s no shortage of medication management apps. Here are just a few…

What’s really needed is an app that offers the powerful combination of robust functionality with a simple, straight-forward user interface.


Posted by on March 3, 2011 in Uncategorized


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