Ask A Librarian: Senior-Friendly Devices?

hands of two men using a tablet computer

I’m working with a Council on Aging and they are looking for “senior-friendly” devices to purchase for their participants, ideally tablets that are also budget friendly. Does anyone have any recommendations? Are there any resources that exist to help people compare devices?

My opinion, as someone who works with seniors all the time who struggle with various devices, is that any device can be set up to be “senior friendly” and a lot of this will depend what other technology, if any, exists in their world.

So for someone who had a Mac, even an old Mac, an iPad is the right answer (could be an old iPad, they are remarkably useful still). Someone with a Windows laptop wouldn’t get as many “it just works” effects from one. I feel like the important part is setting up tablets to work for people which involves…

  • Removing (or hiding somewhat) icons for things they don’t need or want, maybe finding a good tutorial that teaches them how to use the thing they are holding
  • If Android, getting them set up with a Google account and logging everything in. If Apple, making sure they have an Apple ID, if they want Amazon books, help them get Kindle set up
  • Setting up apps to work with the things they might want to use like getting Libby or Overdrive apps set up with their library accounts
  • Locating and either enabling or creating handouts for accessibility features like font size, colors, reduce motion, “gestures” etc
  • Carrying case that will keep it safe, maybe something with larger grip handles if that’s helpful, maybe something with a place for them to write down passwords
  • Adding apps that they specifically want – puzzles, shopping, news, Zoom/Skype/Facetime/Teams, email, weather, birdwatching, etc

Chromebooks are also super cheap in some cases so it may be worth thinking about them, some people have a hard time typing with on-screen keyboards. Here is one comparison of a few options (chromebook and iPad but looks at Kindle Fire)

https://www.cnet.com/how-to/heres-the-best-computer-for-seniors-and-elderly-parents/

Here’s one that looks at just video calling.

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/askjack/2020/mar/26/what-is-the-best-tablet-for-video-calling-grandma

Here’s one from the UK that looks at things like weight and battery life.

https://www.choose.co.uk/guide/best-tablets-older-people/

2 thoughts on “Ask A Librarian: Senior-Friendly Devices?

  1. Great list! Just a few things to add as one of the library’s “ebook people”. Kindle Fire uses the old Overdrive app that requires a lot more steps for things than the Libby app, and the Cloud app has to be approved as one of the “apps from unknown sources”. I’ve also had someone who was unable to store library e-audiobooks on a microSD and she hadn’t realized how much storage they take when she bought her tablet.

  2. Thank you Andrea, that’s super helpful information.

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