If you have older relatives who say they don’t need computers or the Internet, you might want to try to persuade them by showcasing some of the main benefits:
Arguably, the greatest benefit of using a computer or tablet is the ability to connect with friends and family, whether it is through video calls or by sending messages. Nearly three quarters of over 75s who live alone say they feel lonely, for them getting online.
A personal computer (or laptop) is the more traditional choice for people of all ages, providing a separate keyboard, mouse and screen for viewing, navigation and interaction. These days most people will be familiar with computers either through school or from their workplace, but for an older person, a computer, keyboard or mouse may take some time to master for a number of reasons:. Unlike other home appliances, even basic things like starting and turning off Windows or Macintosh computers can be a bit challenging with login questions and passwords..Older people may also find choosing keyboard combinations like “control + alt + del” counter-intuitive, especially as 79% of older computer users only use two fingers when typing.Double-clicking on a mouse is often problematic for the elderly because of the need for specific fine motor skills. In these cases, you should configure the timing of their mouse to allow more time for the second click
The main benefit of choosing a computer for older people is that there is already a lot of instructional material and support to get started. Most local councils offer free computer training for older people and there are many national initiatives organised by reputable charities to help get started
Tablet computers, such as Apple’s iPad have become increasingly popular with older people, because their touch-screen interfaces are often easier to learn to use and they can perform most daily tasks, such as browsing for the news, reading emails or having a video chat within a couple of touches
The touchscreen can also be the main downside of tablets, as many older users may find it harder to touch because of poor circulation in the fingers, or simply because the icons are too small or too close to each other. People with difficulties touching a tablet screen may find using a sponge tip stylus pen easier to use
If typing on the on-screen keyboard proves difficult, you can also consider using speech recognition instead, which comes as standard on most tablets, or you can download apps which help you to dictate rather than write.
Tablets require less short term memory function from users. It’s quite normal to become a bit more forgetful as we age, as our short-term memory may weaken. In these cases it may be harder to remember instructions or processes
While you can do very similar things with computers and tablets such as email, browsing, shopping and video chats, many functions need a couple more steps on computers. In such cases, it’s important to have clear written instructions to remind an older person about what to do to access the functions they want to use.
For example, simply logging into Gmail on a computer, you’ll need to follow the steps:
In contrast, these steps won’t be necessary on tablet computers, where you are typically permanently logged in and can simply press the Gmail icon to get to your inbox
One good way to keep instructions readily available on a computer is by installing sticky note widgets on the desktop. They will look just like a normal post-it note on your parent’s computer screen and can store reminders just where you need them
Computers and tablets range in price from around £150 to upwards of £1000. Many of the more expensive models have a large number of features that may not be relevant in the typical day-to-day activities popular with older people, so it’s a good idea to start with a more affordable model and upgrade over time if necessary.
While cheaper may often be better, it makes sense generally to choose well known products which have plenty of online reviews. You may find some less familiar brands offering computers or tablets below £150, but these often come with sub-standard technical features, such as graphics cards or CPUs that cannot handle basic video playback or phone conferences
When deciding whether computers or tablets are preferable, it is a good idea to test both ahead of time. Any family member or carer can bring along their own devices on a visit to see which would be most comfortable for their own loved ones. It’s also a good idea also to check whether local community centres, or the council, are running training programmes for older people to learn basic IT skills, and many of the trainers are likely to offer advice on both computers and tablets