AbilityNet Factsheet - February 2021

Technology for Seniors

Older people are prone to loneliness and isolation. 

According to the Campaign to End Loneliness, half a million older people go at least five or six days a week without seeing or speaking to anyone, and over half aged 85 and over and 38% of those aged 75 to 84 live alone. 

Age UK estimates there are 1.4m chronically lonely older people in England. 

Technology can be part of the solution, connecting people at a distance and providing access to essential services online. During Covid-19, many organisations distributed tablets and other devices to older populations to help them stay in touch.

There are many devices, which designed with, and for, older people. Others, while not explicitly designed for this population, are well-suited to it.

Our factsheet rounds up some of the options.

Last updated: February 2021

1. Devices designed for seniors

Two devices tailor-made for seniors include the GrandPad, "a tablet for seniors" and KOMP, a simple videoconferencing system from No Isolation.

Both companies worked with older people to understand their needs. The GrandPad has a touch-sensitive screen, designed for the drier skin we develop as we age. For the same reason, KOMP features a button rather than a touchscreen.

2. GrandPad, a Tablet for Seniors

A picture of an older gentleman using the GrandPad on a table. He holds a stylus.GrandPad designed its eight-inch tablet alongside older customers and said it aims the device at people aged 75 and over. 

"GrandPad was envisioned to address one major problem. Adults aged 75 plus are more disconnected or isolated than ever," said Geoff Rochford, GrandPad's Technical Support & Product Operations Specialist. 

It has a touch-sensitive screen which is more sensitive to dry touch because as we age, our skin gets driers and standard touchscreens tend to be less responsive. 

GrandPad includes simple one-touch buttons to access elements such as video conferencing and to connect to 24/7 support 365-days of the year.

Safety is paramount, and families can create a secure social network that will only include approved contacts (including family and friends who are caregivers). Only people within the trusted network that can communicate with the GrandPad and share photos and send emails.

Family administrators can customise the GrandPad to an individual’s needs. For example, they can remove features that might not fit the individual (for example, internet browser, games, etc.). There are also special features that can be turned on, such as Auto Answer and Speech-To-Text for video calls. 

The tablet is available in the UK to lease. There are no contracts, and the device can be returned at any time to end the service.

GrandPad’s UK retailer is TechSilver.

3. KOMP: a one-button computer for seniors

KOMP's videoconferencing device displaying the No Isolation logoKOMP is the brainchild of No Isolation, which aims to “bring people together through warm technology.” 

No Isolation co-designed KOMP with older people, and it is explicitly designed to enable seniors to videoconference with loved ones.

"We went to a care home and met with the residents there about and talked to them about what would be the best piece of kit for them,” said George Howe from No Isolation. 

The KOMP resembles an old-style television or radio with a large screen about 17 inches across and just one button. The simplicity of KOMP makes it accessible to all, particularly those over the age of 80; people's fingertips can become dry and leathery, which can mean that touch screens won't work.

KOMP is a receiving device and requires loved ones to download the KOMP app. They can then initiate a video call with their loved one remotely. 

KOMP is available to rent or to buy outright

4. KOMP Pro, designed for carers

No Isolation has also developed KOMP Pro specifically for people in care settings. KOMP Pro is an add-on piece of software for care providers, including care homes and domiciliary care agencies and local authorities. 

It works similarly to the family app and can also send reminders for medications or scheduled events such as a carer's visit. 

5. Mainstream devices for older people

Other devices offer videoconference and chat functions that are also suitable for older people.

These tend to provide greater functionality than the specific devices tailored to seniors. They may, therefore, be harder to learn. 

6. Amazon Echo Show

Image shows the Echo Show on a table with a group of people speaking and the back of the person talking to themPart of Amazon’s Alexa family, the Echo Show allows you to make video calls. The latest version is the Echo Show 10 (launched 2020). It comes with a 10-inch screen that rotates with you as you interact with it or move around the room. 

You can use the Echo Show to videoconference with family and friends. Alexa Group Calling enables you to create a group of eight friends and family members.

Once set up, say "Alexa, call my family."

Echo Show 10 allows you to watch the news, and TV shows as well as video call. The screen rotates as you watch as it does during video-calling.

The Show includes a security feature. When Alexa Guard is in Away Mode, it will scan its field of view and send an alert if it detects someone in its field of view. You can turn off the motion by sliding the camera shutter closed or by adjusting settings. 

The Echo Show is available to buy from Amazon. 

7. Facebook Portal

A group shot of the various portal devicesFacebook's Portal devices have videoconferencing at their heart. The family includes Portal, Portal Mini and Portal TV. 

All include screens for video calling and to display photos or to watch videos. There's a smart, Artificially Intelligent camera and so – like Echo Show – it will pan and zoom, ensuring you're still in the frame. Smart Sound enhances the voice of whoever is speaking while minimising unwanted background noise.

You can disable the camera and microphone with a single tap for privacy or shut the camera off with the cover.  

The Portal includes Alexa for voice control.

Buy from retailers, including Amazon and Argos.

8. Adapting existing devices

Older people can use standard tablets, laptops, smartphones and computers. 

A stylus will help with touchscreens that might not work as well with dry fingertips. 

All devices have accessibility settings built-in, which you can adjust. 

Adjustments include changing on-screen colours, increasing text, operating the device using your voice, and more. 

Our FREE online tool My Computer My Way has tips on adjusting Android, iOS, and Windows devices.

You may wish to set the device up for an older family member. AbilityNet’s volunteers offer FREE support and help by getting a new device set up, including connecting to your wireless network. They can also help with ongoing issues.

Call our FREE Helpline on 0800 048 7642.

9. How AbilityNet can help you

My Computer My Way

My Computer My Way is an AbilityNet run website packed with articles explaining how to use the accessibility features built into your computer, tablet or smartphone. The site is routinely updated as new features and changes are made to the Windows, macOS, iOS, Chrome OS and Android operating systems. The site is broken down into the following sections:

  • Vision – computer adjustments to do with vision and colour
  • Hearing – computer adjustments to do with hearing, communication and speech
  • Motor – computer adjustments to do mobility, stamina and dexterity
  • Cognitive – computer adjustments to do with attention, learning and memory

Use it for free at mcmw.abilitynet.org.uk

Advice and information

If you have any questions please contact us at AbilityNet and we will do all we can to help.

IT support at Home

If you’re looking for in-person support, you can book a free visit from one of our disclosure-checked volunteers. Many of our volunteers are former IT professionals who give their time to help older people and people with disabilities to use technology to achieve their goals. Our friendly volunteers can help with most major computer systems, laptops, tablet devices and smartphones.

https://abilitynet.org.uk/at-home

Copyright information

This factsheet is licensed by AbilityNet under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. View a copy of this license at creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/

 
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