Aging Parents: Buying one of the New iPads?

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Admittedly, I’ve never reblogged before. Simple reason: I never found anything I thought had to be shared in full, that I wanted readers to see–at least partially– on this home page. That said, I know my limitations (mentioned in an earlier post where I linked readers to an extremely well-done Financial Advice blog).

This is different. You realize immediately that Marti Weston has continued her extensive  iPad research and it’s easy to follow….plus it’s timely. With Christmas less than a week away, Christmas gifts are on everyone’s mind. The iPad has been mind-expanding, entertaining, intstructive, fun + so much else for so many older people. And the iPad, if affordable, is something to seriously consider for aging parents and grandparents.  Thanks for doing so much good investigating, Marti.


Changing weekly: “Of Current Interest” (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities, plus some free and some fun stuff–to help parents age well. 


As Our Parents Age

I finally figured out what iPad model to purchase for my 90-year-old dad as a Christmas 2013 present, and I thought I’d share my decision-making process here, just in case others are dealing with the same conundrum. My mom is under strict instructions to keep him away from this blog (he is a regular reader) until mid-day on December 25th.

Deciding what to buy as a replacement iPad took quite a bit of time and energy, mostly because a range of models are available at a range of prices. Below are some of the factors that contributed to my decision. At the end you can find out what we bought for dad’s Christmas present.

iPad Keyboard – Dad has an easy-to-use keyboard. He sets the iPad right into the 30-pin port and begins typing. His speaker system for music connects the same way. The newest iPad models come with the smaller…

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Why an iPad for Aging Parents Who Can go to an Apple Store?

iPad for Aging Parents

iPad for Aging Parents

It’s not only the technology, it’s the help that sets it apart.

Last weekend internet service was out in our neighborhood. Late Sunday afternoon I decided I’d venture out, in spite of heavy rains, to finish the “senior’s insecurities” post I began on Saturday. An Apple store was closer than a Starbucks, so it became my destination.

The store was swarming with human beings–I immediately thought of swarming bees. Surely they weren’t all last-minute Mother’s Day shoppers. My Mac, 3 1/2 years-old, no longer qualifies for the One to One Plan. All I needed was a table and place to sit.

I noticed an oblong table with several empty stools on one side and plopped myself and my Mac down, uncertain of how welcome I’d be as a “squatter.” A “trainer” at the end of the table came over and asked what he could help me with. I explained my plight. He nicely pointed to the next table over, explaining it should remain mostly empty, while the table he was covering was for individuals needing help with projects. Several people were already there.

Moving my plastic-covered wet umbrella (they provided plastic covers for all umbrellas before we entered) and my plastic bag-covered Mac + rain gear wasn’t the most graceful maneuver; but I sat on the stool, settled my things and opened the computer, whereupon I glanced up and realized that trainer had come over to me. “Do you need a charger?” he asked. And before I could tell him I’d brought mine he told me there was an electrical outlet with a charger about 10 inches from me (under the table) and I should feel free to use it.

How welcome I felt! How thoughtful of the “trainer” to come over to tell me there was a charger nearby. I’d forgotten how user-friendly Apple Stores are. (I often frequented 4 stores in 3 states when I initially purchased my Mac.) No matter how busy and chaotic a store may seem, you are taken care of in a timely manner and never feel you’ve been abandoned.

For aging parents and grandparents who show interest, try a trip to the Apple Store and play with the iPad. Aging parents don’t need an expensive model. There’s also free “Getting Started on the iPad” help.  (The salesperson will demonstrate how easy it is to make an appointment when the purchase is made). That said, I believe there are several months of free Apple Store help after making a purchase, but definitely ask to confirm.

Old people–or anyone–can learn and get help 7 days a week all year if they wish. And it’s this service aspect that I think makes the big difference for older people who may be less confident about technology. Initially it’s peace of mind knowing they can’t easily mess up or break an iPad by doing something “wrong”…and if something does happen, help is as near as the nearest Apple store. While I like the products, I think it’s the service that’s unequalled– inexpensive, and free for certain things–that sets it apart from every other manufacturer.

For example, when I know I’ve done something stupid and think a techie can solve my problem in a minute because it’s so stupid–I take my Mac to the Apple store and–if the greeter isn’t busy–tell him/her my problem. Without even going into the store, my problem has been solved–at stores in 2 different states in the last year.

I pay extra not to take ads on my blog. But because of the service/help aspect I think having a smart parent go computer-less when the iPad could change the game, so to speak, is leaving a large segment of the population computer-illiterate. Clearly other tablets have similar capabilities, but the iPad gets my top billing today because of the service and resulting peace of mind–especially for older people.

And speaking of “paying,” it’s the plan–not the product–that can be very expensive. If adult children have a plan, older parents can often be included in that plan at substantial savings.

(Reminder: I’m not contradicting the advice in earlier posts this month when I caution about being certain a parent has some interest in having a computer before simply thrusting it upon him or her. That said, I think there’s a lot to be said for a tablet helping parents age well–if they will give it a try.)

Related: The iPad for Dad series, click As Our Parents Age.

Best Smartphones for Seniors–updated January 2014 and September 2014

Did you search and search for the most user-friendly cell phone you could find for your parents a few years ago? Views of my “Best Cell Phones for Seniors” post are very popular, attesting to the fact that a huge number of people find buying simple cell phones for seniors a challenge.

Following the 2014 Las Vegas electronics show, PC Magazine again named one of the best smartphones—oops smartphone– for seniors. The Samsung Jitterbug Plus remains their 2014 top–and only– choice so far, calling it “the best simple smart phone there is.”  

Samsung Jitterbug Plus  (Great Call) View slide show and video

Their January 22, 2014 review doesn’t rate the Jitterbug Plus 2 as high as the Jitterbug Plus. Check the comparison chart: Jitterbug Touch 2 (GreatCall), Samsung Jitterbug Plus (Great Call), Just 5 J510 (Unlocked) and Snapfon ezTwo (Unlocked).  Note: Click the Just 5 J510 on the comparison chart and look below for a comparison between older (seemingly preferred) cell phones for seniors, Just 5 J509, as well as  Snapfon ez ONE-c-unlocked and Jitterbug Plus. Worth reading if doing comparisons for a non-techsavvy senior phone.

There’s now a Jitterbug Plus 3.
September 2014’s senior technology editor reviewed Samsung’s Jitterbug Plus 3.Its health and safety apps may give it special appeal.
In a Black Friday ad, November 2014, Great Call features it with an explanation of the smartphone’s ease of use. To my knowledge PC magazine hasn’t reviewed Jitterbug’s Plus 3 yet.

Want to ponder more about smartphones? PC magazine’s late-fall 2012’s offerings (which include the Jitterbug Plus and videos of all) are centered below.

With holidays and no doubt some birthdays coming up, perhaps now is the time to expand seniors’ capabilities just a bit and provide more fun and opportunities by gifting a smartphone. That said, change can be hard for older people so my caution as a retired counselor/educator: Don’t spring this gift on an older person as a surprise, unless you’re willing, from the very beginning, to give an initial lesson and weekly (if not daily) follow ups for the better part of a month. If possible, go together to the ATT, Apple, Verizon or where-ever store and try out the phones together.

(On a personal level, I don’t consider myself very tech-savvy, and find my old iPhone (I think 5g) user-friendly, especially for anyone who uses a Mac. The phone plans, however, can be expensive. Thanks to PC Magazine, you can check cheapest iPhone plans as of March 2013.

PC Magazine reviewed these simple smartphones late fall 2012…..
Pantech Flex (AT&T); watch video
Jitterbug Touch (Great Call) be sure to read 2nd page; watch video
Doro PhoneEasy 740 (Consumer Cellular); watch video

*Update 9/27/13 Doro in US–not available; see below

Doro got a glowing report, however, Doro’s phone (from Sweden) is not for sale in the US. (See my 9/27/13 letter from Doro below.) It’s only sold in the EU (note French YouTube you can google). Also check out England, and Ireland. 

*9/27/13–this email from Doro AB Lund Sweden: Not good news. That said, stay in touch as I carefully look for new options. 

  Dear Susan, I’m afraid you are right, the version of 740 sold in EU would lack the US 850 frequency band. There are no immediate plans to launch 740 in US, but we do hope to be able to offer an easy to use smartphone for the US market in the future. Best Regards– P. Nilsson

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RELATED: Best Cell Phones for Seniors with 9/22/14 update
Best Cell Phones for People with Disabilities–Possibly free
The Best Prepaid Phone Plans You Never Heard of PC mag. 11/22/13  

 Check out Newsworthy (right sidebar) links to timely information and research from top universities and respected professionals, plus some practical stuff–to help parents age well.

Aging Parents’ Computer Capabilities–2

A Heads-Up Before Buying an iPad for Aging Parents

At the Apple Store I asked for help selecting an iPad for an older person. If you’re thinking of gifting an aging parent with an iPad, keep the following (learned in response to my questions to the Apple person assigned to me) in mind. You need to have a compatible computer in order to install iPad updates or trouble-shoot problems, according to him.  Phone support is also available–$79 for 2 years. It doesn’t seem to me that the iPad can substitute for your parents’ computer.  In addition:

1.  A compatible HP printer is necessary to be able to print something from the iPad.  The Apple Store sells the HP compatible models (least expensive is about $150).
2.  Since the iPad is wireless it’s necessary to bring wireless to the house/apartment if it isn’t already there (and of course there’s a monthly charge). If cable has already been installed “it’s probably OK.”
3.  The iPad comes in several models. The 3G model has the capability of being used anywhere (but requires an independent contract with Verizon or AT&T, thus becomes more expensive).  If the iPad will be used primarily at home where there’s wireless, no need for the 3G model.
4. A $69 keyboard is available for people who touch type and find the smooth surface of the iPad a difficult adjustment.
5.  Because, as I understand it, it’s necessary to have a compatible computer in order to install updates or trouble-shoot problems on the iPad, it may mean buying a new computer for your parents–probably a Mac.
6.  Anyone who has changed from pc to Mac, knows it’s an adjustment. Older people usually find change more difficult.  I know it took me a while to feel comfortable when I made the change (even the vocabulary changes–ie. “favorites” become “bookmarks”) so being available to answer aging parents’ questions and being supportive during the transition makes sense.
7.  Purchasing the One to One year’s worth of help ($99) at an Apple store is an option although a short period of free help at an Apple Store comes, I believe, free.

If you’re considering an iPad for an older person’s gift, you might double-check the questions I asked the Apple person who was assigned to me with the Apple person who will be assigned to you.  And if you should get different information, please let me know.  After all– we want to help aging parents, not give them more problems

Tomorrow I’m visiting my 89-year-old friend. Our goal: to make her a more comfortable, knowledgeable iPad user. (Check my last post–Aging Parents’ Computer Capabilities–1.  She inspired it.)

Related: Why an iPad for Seniors

Aging Parents’ Computer Capabilities–1

I had one of those moments the other day.  I went to lunch with a former high school and college math teacher, now long-retired at 89 years of age. We’ve been good friends for years. I knew she had been using a computer for a long time and assumed  she was quite computer literate. (Sr. Advisor 97-year-old R has said more times than I can remember “don’t assume, especially when it comes to older people.”) Guess I haven’t learned.

She began our luncheon conversation telling me how she was thrilled with the new iPad her children had given her–so light weight and fast and enlarging images on the screen is easy.  But she didn’t know how to get my blog on it.  Said her son had showed her certain things, but not how to get to my blog.  So I asked a few questions:
1.  How did she get to my blog on her old computer?  Answer: “I pushed the button, it was in my favorites.”
2.  I knew she e-mailed. I asked what else she did on her computer? Answer: “I look at pictures my children and grandchildren send and print some out.”
3.  “Anything else?” I asked.  Answer: “I used to look up information but I don’t any more.”
4.  “Do you write letters other than e-mail for people who don’t have e-mail?” I asked.  “No, I don’t know how to do that. And the other thing I don’t know how to do is print anything from my new iPad.”

This woman has a mathematical mind and in her day was an outstanding science student at one of the top colleges in the country. She also  plays bridge and comes in first more times than I can count.  So I’m wondering why her computer usage is so limited.  I think I know the answer.

None of her children live near.  The closest lives a  4-hour drive away and he has responsibilities that make it difficult to get away. He purchased the iPad (as a Mother’s Day gift from him and his siblings) and set it up and I believe showed his mother some basics. But then he had to go back home. If you read Marti Weston’s experiences with her dad and the iPad she bought him, you realize it takes more than one trip (see last Saturday’s post) to help an aging parent really understand.

I went to the Apple Store this evening.  To help aging parents and my 89-year-old friend continue to age well, I will summarize my iPad findings–for them and for their children–in an additional post I tomorrow.

Internet Enrichment for Seniors who are Capable of Using Computers (but don’t)

There is no one answer to why some capable, aging parents don’t use a computer–another resource that can help parents age well.  A few reasons were offered in the last post. More recent questioning of older people elicited:

Comfort Level Reasons

1.  Older people are satisfied with things the way they are. Why make problems if they’re happy with the status quo?
2.  They aren’t interested in learning anything new.
3.  Any initial interest in learning to use a computer is ultimately overruled by the necessity of disrupting one’s comfort level (which includes concerns about being able to learn and about internet security).
4.  When it involves “home,” they don’t want it “torn up.” Thoughts of making a hole in the wall for internet access is unnerving, whether in a home or in an apartment lacking internet accessibility.

Financial Reasons

1.  While the price of computers has clearly come down, they do cost money.
2.  Installing internet access costs money.
3.  Then there’s the monthly charge for internet access.

The above bears keeping in mind if you decide to plunge in and discuss getting a computer with your parents; as does the “keep it simple, stupid” rule. If it’s complicated, forget it. Which brings us to computers recommended in past posts, but with a different twist.
1.  Paw Paw The simplest technology-just email. But it does connect seniors to the outside world. A baby step towards the internet’s capabilities.
2.  A computer: Regardless of make or model, start simple.  Instruct how to E-mail, Google, Forward an e-mail, and Click on a forward, for example Live-Streaming (eg. the previously suggested link: , where viewing the baby red-tailed hawk and its parents is addictive and educational),  or YouTube, where Susan Boyle’s 1st audition is thrilling. The latter two forwards highlight examples of the educational and musical potential.
3. The iPad: small, light-weight. Teaching parents the basics above, and selecting a few appropriate apps, gets parents started.  Once again check out Marti Weston’s blog and her 80-something-year-old dad’s experience after she gifted him with an iPad:

Father’s Day is June 19th.  Yet there are other excuses to gift capable parents with a computer, internet access, and some of your time to teach some basics. If siblings and others want to chip in, so much the better. Once aging parents get the hang of it, won’t they be entertained, connected, and possibly forever grateful?

Shouldn’t Mentally Capable, Aging Parents Have a Computer?

I attended a Woman’s Club program recently. The youngest attendees were in their 60’s. Most were aged 70-90.  Tea and desserts came after the program. We were seated at tables for four. Two of the women at my table were in their 80’s, one was 90–all widows, bright, alert, and with-it.  A lively discussion (aka argument), with conflicting “facts,” about Bin Laden’s killing and secrecy about Navy Seals’ activities was underway.

I asked if they used a computer.  One answered she used one until she retired, but hadn’t bothered to get one since. Why would these women need a computer? Why should they have a computer?

1.  We know using one’s mind is supposed to keep one mentally sharp (isn’t that why so many play bridge later in life?) and information about seemingly everything is a Google/Yahoo/Bing away.
2.  At the least, exposure to ideas and facts and learning new things adds interest to life.
3.  Adding interest to life keeps people engaged–whether interacting with the computer or with humans.
4.  Knowledge provides independence–great for aging parents; also great for adult children as it can take some responsibility off their shoulders.
5.  Opportunities for connections with others are many.  And connections with others is one of the three most important aspects of aging well according to reputable studies.
6.  Having fun is an important aspect of living and, if nothing else, people can play bridge and other games and enjoy concerts without ever leaving home.

R, at 97, has said many times that if she’d known at age 80 that she was going to live this long, she would have gotten a computer and learned how to use it.

That said, I have friends in their 60’s and 70’s who drive a car without hesitation but won’t use a computer.  Some have one in the house (their husband’s old one?) and access e-mail–when they think about it.  For anything else, they ask their husband or adult children to do it for them. Some smugly say they’d rather talk to a person on the phone; and/or write a letter….”not as impersonal” they think.

But is that fair–fair to impose on family members? –fair to themselves because they miss out on a lot?  Some of my high school classmates have died.  Most of us hear by email.  Yet a close h.s. friend who moved away “put her late husband’s computer in a box” when she moved and proudly says she hasn’t taken it out and doesn’t plan to. Friends can update her about news on the phone, she says. They forget. She’s often clueless. Yet there’s still a lot going on in her life so the consequences aren’t as glaring.

But in the aging population there’s often not that much going on.  So think connections, information, stimulation, fun.  A computer can add all that and more. By enriching older parents’ lives, we help them age well.