A not-so-complimentary NY Times hands-on review of the AARP RealPad.
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iPads in senior housing -- could be -- with help
Hype alert -- for senior housing residents -- iPads may both amaze and confound. Caution -- this is not a review, even though I have a brightly lit iPad next to me as I write this text on a PC. I still love my PC because I've become fond its high feedback QWERTY keyboard with its easy-to-find punctuation, mouse access to grabbing text and URLs easily, and other conveniences that have rather grown on me over the years. I admit to loving the iPad for reading a book, as a home music streamer, watching a movie on a plane, looking at my street from a satellite, and examining news sites. But this is not about me. This is about the use of an iPad in senior housing settings. For example, check out this video made by a Colorado news station that shows an iPad tutorial for the over-88 senior housing residents -- which I just watched for the third time.
What the video suggests to me -- support requirements. The iPad can be great for seniors -- everyone says so. But is that so? For one thing, watch a resident try to hold it upright and share a peek with her neighbor -- does it look perilously balanced to you? Okay, consider a folding stand case that keeps it propped upright for those with shaky or weak hands who might let it slip. Next -- note the helpful staffer providing step-by-step (or pinch-by-touch) guidance on what they're looking at, whether it's a crossword puzzle, a piano keyboard, or a satellite view within Google Maps. The staffer seems to be the key to enabling residents to 'slide to unlock' the iPad's mysteries, never mind its screen. Founder of Balfour Senior Living Community Michael Schonbrun believes that the iPad will keep residents mentally (and physically???) sharp. According to the video, Balfour plans to develop a check-out system so that residents can take them back to their rooms. I am not so sure that's such a good idea -- first check out (and print out) an iPad for Seniors For Dummies Cheat Sheet. Look over the Restrictions option under General Settings and consider disabling a number of functions, including Installing and Deleting Apps. Read some forums on limitations associated with administering iPads for groups.
Watching a fellow passenger -- maybe sticky note reminders might help. For those who've struggled with new user interfaces, lo, these many years, it was no surprise watching the 70's-plus gentleman on the airplane aisle poke, pinch, and trial-and-error stab at his iPad (first rev, he said, acquired right after the launch), so that he could switch from the user interface of his book to his movie to listening to an Elvis Presley song -- each of which had its own peculiarities, er, styles. Trial-and-error is not so bad, though -- unless it frustrates. Once tech staff has decided on an app selection and checkout process, maybe the next step might be tailoring an iPad cheat sheet plastic card attached to the case. And while setting up each and every iPad, be sure to evaluate and enable the Accessibility options for the visually or hearing impaired -- that's worth examining and learning about through videos and blogs of those who are using these options to maximum effect.
Technology never just drops in on little cat feet. Three-fourths of the benefit comes from people -- evangelists like blogger Maurie Hill (above) or early adopters like Michael Schonbrun (the Balfour video) -- but also from activities staffrtd who first train themselves and then are passionate about overcoming tech administrator obstacles. For example, it appears that you must have a credit card on file with iTunes to download a free app like Virtuoso Piano so that an 88-year-old can tap out a tune. I do agree with Ellen in the video that a real P-I-A-N-O is best for playing the piano, but when that isn't feasible -- maybe the two-sided version of this app for simultaneous keyboard players (no kidding) could be mesmerizing, not to mention interactive -- or it could drive staff members insane.
Wait and see? With more than 80 tablets bursting into the marketplace, maybe more flexibility for administrators in multi-resident user environments will be a key feature of those competitors who are intent on giving Apple some competition and may offer guidance on transcending iPad multi-user administration issues. Tablets are portable and have glow-in-the dark back lighting, so they may be very useful for CCRCs, etc. So go ahead, those who already know how best to deploy in a senior housing setting, speak up!