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Why aren't seniors wowed by tablets?

Are seniors missing the tablet and e-Reader boomlet? Las Vegas can rest now. It has been left to its own devices, so to speak, now that CES has left town for another year. Exhibitors, never original, seized on swipe and touch trends started by Apple -- reports from the show noted that 'Android tablets have sprung up around CES like worms after a rainstorm' and how many types will be sitting in stores in 2012. So why don't seniors want to buy them? Pew Research published a glowingly titled doc recently titled Tablets and e-Reader Ownership Nearly Double Over the Holiday Gift-Giving Period and headlined that 'overall at least 29% of Americans own at least one of them.'  And the 50-64 year-olds did show a significant increase in tablet ownership from December 2011-2012 -- from 8-15%. But as the Pew data shows, the 65+ are not flocking to the store to pick up a tablet-- a mere increase from 5 to 7%. Maritz did some profiling the younger folk: the average tablet buyer is aged 38-41, with an income of approximately $70K, tablet buyers are likely to be male. Older women seem to like the e-Reader more, with ownership jumping from 8-12% year over year, average e-book buying woman is aged 44. So what's the, er, story here?

Trendy does not make a device necessary - unless it is.  So you like to buy books, huh? Unimpressed with Wal-Mart's selection? Do you live near a bookstore?  Oh, it's one of the 200 Borders stores that are closing? Or were they one of the Barnes and Noble dearly departed?  Meanwhile, seizing the day, US public libraries have jumped into the e-book lending -- beginning to make that $79-99 Kindle about more than readying the purchaser for one $9.99 book purchase after another. At least for Amazon Prime users, if the library lends e-Books, they can 'take out' 1 e-book per month. Hopefully this will help stem the tide of dwindling library services. Looking down the road, though, e-Reader devices will start to look like the have-have not product that will eventually separate the people who have an opportunity to read books (including home-bound seniors) from those can't seem to find those increasingly rare paper versions anywhere.

Tablets -- necessary or out of reach for seniors?  Back to the $70K income level of the tablet buyer -- maybe the Kindle Fire tablet at $199, which includes the e-Reader app -- will look attractive to those book-buying barely boomer women. But the 65+ female may look at the tablet and say 'Why?' Maybe for the following reasons: median income for women aged 65+ is $15,282.  That's a barrier, as is broadband penetration (31%), and e-book download-enabling through potentially costly data plans.  So those significant limiting factors are big deals. But let's get to what I think of as the 'pet rock' syndrome. 

Does anyone really NEED a tablet? You know that tablet buyers already have PCs or Macs, smart phones and a library of software waiting to be downloaded, upgraded, patched, or backed up. Given the demographics of the tablet buyers, think of how many of the 'must-have' tech purchases people make, many of which stretch their credit cards and cell contracts out into oblivion. Like the latest smart phones that aren't ready for prime time, the software versions that are filled with bugs or incompatible with each other, and the planned obsolescence built into design for manufacturing. These are the gotta-have pet rock purchases of devices that render the prior device out of sight in a drawer of similarly behind-the-times has-beens, destined someday for landfills.  As I stare at the various devices on my desk and hidden away from view, maybe the 65+ cohort knows what the rest of us buyers of junk-to-be refuse to grasp -- that what you think you need now may be a waste of time and money.


We have an app for Ageing-at-Home which uses an Android Tablet. We think the smaller ones like Amazon Kindle for $200 are best.
It is a Moving Picture Frame which family and friends can update remotely with new photos to keep 'Grandma' up to date with family events.
There is a Pills Reminder which can be a help when there are too many pills or Grandma's memory is facing. On the communication side it scrolls emails across the bottom of the screen and has a 'Chat' button to send a text or email to a friend saying that she would love to get a call! Obviously the e-reader works and email as well as the Web for YouTube, Skype too on some tablets!

It's very new! We think a son or a niece is needed to install it and to show 'Grandma' how slide to open works and what a touch screen is.
Android Market or Amazon app store:- Ageing at Home The app is free but there is a small annual charge for communications etc.

Timely article... our social worker and I (activity director) were just discussing the merits of tablets and e-readers for our residents, which we both personally own. The recent addition of WIFI to our building will make this an option for some, and I look forward to facilitating appropriate candidates and encouraging family members to invest in this new technology for their loved ones--all with the goal of keeping our residents engaged mentally and emotionally through virtual contact with the world and their loved ones. I'm very jazzed about this new opportunity and hope to offer a workshop for our residents and family about the possibilities afforded them :)

When you already have a desktop PC, a tablet is redundent. I have a nice large screen for my desktop. . The other issue is seeing the stuff on tablets. While there are probably blow up apps for the tablets, my experience has been that for vision impaired (which most Seniors are), the apps are clunky to use.

We just got my father-in-law an iPad for Christmas. He's had a PC for years and my wife created a Facebook account for him months ago, but he rarely used the computer and never went onto Facebook. We spent an evening training him on the iPad and he took to it quickly, commenting that the screen contrast makes it much easier to read. He could access his email much quicker and get straight into Facebook. He also loves the ability to take a picture and then email with ease (and he doesn't show excitement about much). They're not as excited about Angry Birds, but found several online card game apps they enjoy.

A week later I received a Facebook friend request, so the tablet seems to be the difference. Based on these results, we're evaluating taking the iPads into the senior communities we provide Internet to residents at. We think a $65 monthly plan that includes the iPad, Internet, and training will be something that makes the Internet much more accessible. Thoughts?

...the beach-head for home senior healthcare. If (big IF), when content and motivation are coupled together. I have ideas/plans/concept on how I will do this...etc. Mr. Hirschman maybe we should chat soon? cmurdock@secantcorp.com

There is a program called One Laptop Per Child which focuses on getting every child in the world digitally literate. What if we started a program in the US called One Pad Per Senior (OPPS) to do the same thing. Why?
- Because we all know that the 65+ group is one of the largest users of the federal budget between Medicare and Social Security.
- Because that age cohort is growing like mad so that the largest use will get exponentially larger over the next 20 years, so large we can't afford it.
- Because technology and electronic communications are a foundational aspect of the breed of healthcare.
- Because "successful aging" and health are more than just treating old-age diseases. Successful aging encompasses health, home, purpose and community -- areas where technology can and should play a major role in keeping people "connected".

I agree that there are many barriers to getting 65+ folks to adopt technology, in general. Personally, I believe that tablets are a wonderful device for many older adults, but their lack of experience with tablets, fear of new technology, fear of buying the wrong product, or changing from the old standby PC to something different are all reasons I hear all the time. Tablets are great because they are moveable, have decent battery life, and can enable tons of useful things for you - video entertainment, audio entertainment, games, communication with others, engagement with the community, etc.

We see a fair amount of technology adoption in the affluent senior communities, even with the 80+ set. The financial components of being "connected" are stoppers for others (at least they say they are.) So, how can our industry overcome this? Qualcomm has a very inexpensive "chip" that allows devices to become mobile. A number of broadband providers have stated that they will provide less expensive service to families (but haven't stated their commitment to income-restricted seniors.) I've started thinking about how to get OPPS to happen. I hope a few of you can think along with me.

Unfortunately, we received a Kindle as a present. We had seen them in stores and didn’t want one, but due to circumstances, we knew it wasn’t a present we could regift or return.

We found a site with free books and loaded a bunch. My husband found a few scifi novels. Our local library has current books available to load.

The prices of books or ereaders is not a consideration. We can afford them if we want them.

The screen holds too few words. If the font were any larger, I would have about 20-words per page.

I found that the lightweight Kindle slipping around was very annoying.

Book prices? I don’t buy books or magazines - we have a fabulous local, county, and state library. You can’t get cheaper than “free”. Occasionally I’ll pick up a second hand non-fiction book at a garage sale for under $1. I can resell it later at my own garage sale.

I am not brokenhearted if I should misplace a second-hand paperback and sometimes I deliberately leave them somewhere for someone else when I am finished. I can leave a paperback on my beach chair while I take a dip in the ocean and there is no theft problem or major damage if a wet swimmer runs by.

If needed, we have township and county senior buses and the county/local senior groups sponsor a book delivery/pick up service.

I love the feel and smell of books, their permanence. While I use bookmarks for works-in-progress, there is something to be said for riffling through a book, reading a bit here-and-there. Looking up at my bookshelf, scanning the titles until one calls my name. Paging through a book, finding notes that I wrote in college.

I find reading off electronic screens annoying and I am often left with burning eyes. The library Kindle books apparently disappear after two weeks. After holding the Kindle for even a little while, my hand starts to ache.

And my husband the hard-core techie? He finished the scifi books and left the Kindle on his nightstand. I have dusted it at least twice.

I got a Kindle about 2 years ago and it's actually taken me that long to get used to using and I was expecting that my grandmother would have the same reaction when she received one over the Christmas holidays. She impressed me with how quickly she started using it and enjoying it considering it's really only her second piece of acquired technology recently - the first was a little prepaid "senior" cellphone we discovered from the SVC line. In my defense, she started out with the basic Kindle and since she has always been an extensive reader, I feel this really wasn't a leap for her.

Looking down the road, though, e-Reader devices will start to look like the have-have not product that will eventually separate the people who have an opportunity to read books (including home-bound seniors) from those can't seem to find those increasingly rare paper versions anywhere.

I can appreciate the critique in this article, and I am commenting over a year late, but I truly believe tablets are the future. They faced many early problems; but most beta products do. Today they have matured into portable devices that are extremely easy to use.

What can you do on a laptop that you can't do on a tablet?