iPad mini: Bringing the elderly into the digital age

iPad mini: Bringing the elderly into the digital age

Summary: The elderly often find technology to be physically challenging to embrace. The iPad mini is changing that due to its small size that is light enough to be easy to handle.

TOPICS: iPad, Mobile OS
Mom iPad 300
Mom with original iPad

Evelyn (not her real name) sits down at the table every morning with the one cup of coffee she permits herself daily. For years she would open the day's newspaper to catch up on current events. She admits that got harder to do as she got older and her body could no longer do some things as she did in the past.

Instead of the newspaper Evelyn now picks up her iPad mini, a gift from her son. She operates it with ease and because of the small size and light weight she marvels how she can hold it even for long periods with no issues.

She tells me the big iPad she had before was nice and she really liked it, but it was painful to hold for very long. It was just too heavy and the larger form made it uncomfortable to handle for very long. She had to put it down frequently to rest her hands, and that was frustrating.

The look on Evelyn's face is priceless, she is able to see the latest family addition in her little kitchen thousands of miles away.

That's not the case with the new iPad mini and it has become a major part of her day. She tells me she can read the local newspaper, send email to friends, and keep up with her family on Facebook. Due to the iPad mini Evelyn now uses Facebook constantly to keep up with her family spread far and wide. 

She delightfully shows me a new photo of her great-great-grandson posted just a short while ago. She brings it up with ease and swipes through a collection of new photos. The look on Evelyn's face is priceless, she is able to see the latest family addition in her little kitchen thousands of miles away.

See related: Lure of the tablet: No intimidation

What makes the iPad mini a great fit for the elderly is the comfortable form factor coupled with the simple interface. Evelyn and others like her can just pick up the iPad mini and do the things they want to do. The simple operating system instantly makes her feel at ease with the most advanced technology she has ever used. There is no intimidation as commonly felt with other computers. She just picks it up and uses it.

I suspect Evelyn is not unique in her need for a computer as small and light as a simple notepad. Many older folks I speak with are anxious to embrace technology as long as they can easily (and comfortably) handle it. It must be easy to use, too, and not require a lot of "fussing" to make it work.

Side view 300
ZAGG Mini 9 with iPad mini

After watching Evelyn slowly tap on the screen to send an email and update Facebook, I asked her if she ever wishes she had a keyboard to type them. She admitted that would be nice but would make it too hard for her to physically handle.

I pull the ZAGGkeys Mini 9 keyboard case out of my bag and show her how it works. She picks it up and once again I see a sparkle in her eyes. She types a Facebook update on the keyboard and actually laughs in delight. She excitedly exclaims how it props the iPad mini up making it even easier for her to use for a long time.

She asks me to tell her son about the Mini 9 with a smile on her face as big as Facebook.

See also:

Topics: iPad, Mobile OS

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • So, this is only true for the iPad mini?

    No other small format tablet could possibly work? Or, is the increase of a few grams all that impossible for the elderly to hold?

    I would think the better screen resolution of the Nexus 7 might just outweigh a few grams ... while saving the fixed income elderly the onerous tariff of ~ 250$
    • Even the elderly have taste

      Why would they want some cheap, plasticky-yet-heavy iPad mini wannabe?
      • Oh I don't know ...

        Perhaps they would prefer better resolution or maybe pay for heat, food, etc?

        Of course, that whopping 35 grams (~8 sheets of copier paper) might just tear their fingers from their hands.

        Also, which product was released first? Who is the wannabe here?
        • Rather almost 100 grammes, not just 35 (depending on model)

          Also, more consistent UI helps a lot, as well as real choice of tablet applications, which is impossible for Android yet.
          • Really?

            32 gig ipad mini (wifi) Per Apple "Weight (Wi-Fi): 0.68 pound (308 g) 1024-by-768 resolution at 163 pixels per inch (ppi)"
            32 gig Nexus 7 (wifi) per Google "Screen 7" 1280x800 HD display (216 ppi) 340 grams"

            The rest of your post is just typical myopic Apple fan boy drivel.
    • Consider the horrible eye strain from the iPad Mini

      We are constantly being told that the low resolution of certain other tablets will instantly cause your eyeballs to explode from the horrible eye strain.

      If you care about the elderly members of your family, you won't want their eyeballs to explode. If you care about the elderly members of your family, don't buy them an iPad Mini, buy them something with BETTER than Retina display. Buy them a Nexus 7.
      • Just do it

        And hopefully your dear old gran will pulverise you with said nexus. It's the humane thing to do.
    • The Nexus 7 internals are good

      However, internals are not everything. The external hardware on Apple is always superior to anything out there. So also the OS, it does not require frequent restarts or killing off apps for an ordinary user. I have both the Nexus 7 and iPad mini. My family members love the iPad mini. As a techie I like the internals of Nexus 7, but in spite of its internal hardware and power, there are times when Android's pinch zoom is very grainy and other apps in the background start clogging it up. At least if the external hardware such as the outer casing was better designed (maybe with metal to make it sturdy), the Nexus 7 would have been something you could give a primary school kid. The Nexus 7 just does not seem sturdy or hard enough and feels very plasticky.
      • Re: (maybe with metal to make it sturdy)

        Go read Gizmodo's report on how an Iphone 5 looks after just two months without being inside a case: full of scratches and dents.

        The polycarbonate used to make the cases of most Android devices is much tougher than that, and will continue looking like new for much longer.

        It's no coincidence that those protective cases sold for Apple devices, to cover up their scratches and dents, and make them look pretty, are made from that exact same polycarbonate plastic.
  • Simple

    "She just picks it up and uses it."


    And that kind of simplicity is important to most of us younger folk, too.
  • Agreed

    Although my father has long been very computer literate (he bought a TRS-80 back in 1980), my mother (who is now 80) has always been intimidated by them and has never really used one. I recently got her a Kindle Fire and now she is actively using email, Facebook, Twitter, and some general web surfing. She also uses it extensively for reading ebooks (the original purpose) as well as playing some casual games.

    I definitely believe tablets, particularly these smaller, inexpensive ones, are going to pull in many of the older generation who have avoided computing until now. The smaller size and fairly easy-to-use, personally-oriented user interfaces make them much less intimidating than full computers.
  • Interesting how again, the keyboard comes up

    Thanks James. I would take exception to you making it sound like the iPad Mini is what brought the elderly into the digital age, considering it wasn't the first and in fact, Steve Jobs was VERY much against this form factor, he hated it, he wanted the elderely to suffer with big iPads. I would give the credit to anyone but Apple. Samsung, Google, Amazon, take your pick, they ALL beat Apple here, they ALL brought the elderly into the digital age while Apple rested on their laurels and did nothing.

    However, I do find it interesting that yet again, the topic of the keyboard comes up and I quote you:
    "She picks it (the keyboard) up and once again I see a sparkle in her eyes."

    I find it fascinating how frequently the topic of tablet + keyboard comes up and how much you seem to LOVE it and how you never feel that a keyboard takes anything away from a tablet being a tablet.

    Well, except when discussing ONE tablet where the keyboard is actually done BETTER than any other tablet on the market. But you know what I'm talking about.
  • Beautifully done, James

    After finishing this piece, I knew it would incite protests from the Android and Microsoft fans.

    P.S. 1 Dearest Android fans, don't forget that the iPad Mini has a 7.9-inch display. Thus, it's slightly larger than the displays on various 7-inch tablets. In addition, it's much lighter than larger form factor tablets such as the iPad, Nexus 10 and Surface RT.

    P.S. 2 Microsoft is in a world of hurt as they are nowhere to be found in the smaller form factor tablet market.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
  • Yes that .9" increase is a huge factor

    ... over come by moving the smaller device a bit closer. I guess that comes down to whether one figures it worth the extra ~250$

    P.S. 1 Dearest Apple fan, please do not to presume to include me in your Android fans list. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I just believe in speaking to the glaring omission in James post, namely that a Nexus 7 would serve the same purpose as his case and might have avoided providing the spark to ignite the very controversy to which you refer. But alas, I suppose that isn't the intention of Zdnet authors. Afterall, clicks pay the bills.
  • So, here's a story about how a sweet, elderly lady

    loves being reconnected to the world through modern technology in the form of an iPad mini, and a bunch of stone-souled jackasses come on here to b**** about how it wasn't an android tablet. News flash. This says a whole hell of a lot more about the kind of person you are than it does about the blog author or this grandma.
    • Had James article been a story about a sweet little old grandma who had

      gotten "reconnected to the world" by being given a Nexus 7, rather than an iPad mini, my initial post would have been to point out the glaring omission of not including other small form factor tablets like the iPad mini.

      News flash. Your leaping to conclusions about "a bunch of stone-souled jackasses" speaks volumes of what kind of person you are.
  • James I find one issue.

    Most of the elderly may have bad or poor eyesight. My father-in-law comes to mind. He feels comfortable reading news on bigger monitors than iPad (I tried with iPad 1). I am not sure how these screens less than 17" monitors would help anyone over 80 with poor eyesight. This may not apply for 100% for but definitely vision and smaller screens would become an issue.
    Ram U
    • Zoom

      I agree with you but the simple pinch and zoom addresses the vision issue far better than the old magnifying readers of old.
      • well zoom with pinch addresses some part of it.

        But after working with few old people, I have noticed their fingers may not be very responsive for touch. Of course my knowledge is very limited in that aspect, but that's what I noticed and pinch and zoom never worked out for him very well on iPad definitely.
        Ram U
  • "Gift" Being The Operative Word

    Funny you never see such stories from people who had to pay full price for the Apple gadget.