I have been intrigued recently with the computers marketed and designed specifically with seniors in mind. With an M.Ed. in Instructional Technology I am generally more concerned with the accessibility of technology to younger audiences and how it can enhance the learning experience. I believe, however, that technology can and does help many people in many different situations. It’s simply a matter of educating people about how specific tools can help.
One of the best things about computers or tablets for seniors is that it allows them to stay connected to friends and family who are far away, even overseas. My son’s best friend was in Turkey for 7 weeks this summer, but they talked on Skype several times a week and it didn’t feel at all like he was gone that long. Because loneliness and isolation can be a big issue for our seniors, this is a great benefit. Quite frankly, it’s the best benefit. Many of the elderly will not need to create word processing documents or spreadsheets or be interested in playing computer games online, but they will love speaking to a grandson face to face.
All that being said, here are some of the products out there and some information about what they do, cost, pros, cons, and what kind of reviews they are getting.
The Telikin Computer – This computer is marketed specifically to seniors. They have three models: the Telikin Breeze (desktop), Telikin Elite (desktop), and Telikin Freedom (laptop).
Cost: $699, $1,079, $799 respectively
Pros: A large print keyboard, apps and software pre-installed, touch screen, and support specifically geared toward seniors.
Cons: The cost will be prohibitive for some seniors. Although it’s not necessarily a con, the computer comes with lots of software and apps that some people will never use.
The WOW! Computer for Seniors – This computer is the same computer as the Telikin, sold by a marketing company. They have one model, which eliminates any hemming and hawing over which model to buy.
Cost: $1,099 (on sale from $1,299 according to the web site)
Pros: Touch screen, pre-installed apps, no need to buy and install software.
Cons: Again, the cost is quite high. A senior on a fixed budget is going to have a hard time coming up with this much extra $$$. I also noticed that they have two different levels of tech support, which makes me suspicious. When you buy a Wow computer, you get free lifetime “Basic Support”. Which includes support by email and toll free phone number. Where it looks hinky to me, is getting into the VIP Support. For an extra $9.95 per month you get things like “priority access to US based support staff”. Hmmm….
A Plus Computers for Seniors – This is another company that markets specifically to seniors. They do have a lot more options and a wider price range than the other two companies.
Cost: They run from $599 for a basic laptop to $1199 for a touch screen desktop with large print keyboard. (Keep in mind that the $1199 is the “sale” price, the original price being an whopping $1599!)
Pros: Touch screen, some come with large print keyboards, wide variety of choices. Pre-installed software.
Cons: The cons are pretty much the same as the previous computers. The cost is quite high for many of the models. They also have a “signature support” that costs $19.95 a month and covers their “just for seniors” support as well as covering hardware and software issues. Depending upon your viewpoint, this could be a pro or con, I suppose.
All this being said, what is the conclusion? As with so many issues, it depends upon your particular situation. My opinion is that it may not be worth the cost of one of these “special” computers. What you don’t see on many of the review or information sites is the fact that pretty much any laptop or desktop computer (or tablet for that matter) can be adjusted to fit these specifications. Color schemes, font size, and the number of icons on screen can be changed. If you don’t know how to make these changes for your loved one, ask a friend, or find an expert. Oftentimes, you can ask someone at an electronics store, like Best Buy.
My final word of advice is if you are looking into a computer for a senior loved one do lots of research! Check out all the options and ask around. Also, as I tell my son, never buy anything on the internet without reading the reviews!
Aimée Stork, M.Ed.