Sunday, September 13, 2009

Simpler Tech for Seniors

Useful Newer Technology for Seniors

Seniors benefit from technology once they know what is available and do it themselves, with maybe just a little help from a neighbor.

Here is some of what is both useful AND easy to use.

As many already know, Skype ranks high and offers easy phoning. Skype is a technology which puts free phoning through your computer. For seniors its biggest benefit is far better sound, either through speakers or normal-looking phones. Skype is free, but anyone can call out to phone numbers nationwide for about $3 a month. Skype has video phoning, too.

Next for seniors might be Netflix, which simply mails movies to them at a small monthly fee for use with just a DVD player, or with a small online device called a Roku wherever there is free wireless service. The Roku device is a small box which plugs in between computer and TV and actually makes things simpler than a remote once it is connected. Movies are chosen from Netflix's website. Computer users, search Google for Netflix.

Again, even without computer knowledge, for those who drive much, or navigate next to the driver, portable automobile GPS navigators are quite easy to use and help get where you are going. These small cigarette-pack sized devices guide by voice to any destination. They alert which lane to use for a turn, a safety factor for seniors or anyone else. These devices are among the simplest of all computer-based devices to use and make it easy and safer to find your way.

Similarly, Amazon now has a book-sized reader (Kindle) which lets the reader buy or access a book by just pushing a button. Designed for non-computer users, the Kindle delivers the book magically "over-the-air", so that a book can be delivered anywhere instantly, even reads it out loud. It holds a lot of books and can automatically receive magazines and papers like the New York Times. Books are about half-price normally but millions (literally) are available free. The Kindle is almost tailor-made for, and in wide use by seniors. Text of any size can be enlarged, a huge benefit No internet service or computer knowledge is needed. There is no monthly cost.

If you can put up with a small screen, the Apple iTouch has a brighter screen and is cheaper. The iPod Touch does not read books aloud from print but does access recorded audible books and play them aloud. Handy and easy to use.

New large combination TV and computer displays help seniors as vision fades. Wireless headsets nowadays help a lot to hear TV sound clearly if your TV has jacks to accept them. Worth looking into.

Here is more new technology to help more computer literate seniors, and for those willing to make the effort...

Cell phones are often still not entirely easy to use. Whereas a small wireless headset might seem a complication, it actually saves pulling out the phone when a call comes in. There are cell phone users everywhere to help.

If you are computer literate, if you can read the mini display and handle the mini keyboard, the wallet sized Apple iPod Touch offers Skype wireless phoning without a monthly fee. You also need a computer, wireless, and computer literacy, though. Much simpler iPods are just portable radios which play only recordings transferred from computer. Once set up, the iPod Touch makes up-to-date recorded broadcasts and PBS available automatically whenever wanted.

One of the big benefits of this technology is the ability to check out audio books (read aloud) from local Library. There is no need to read the book or to go to the library to get one.

With the wireless technology, no connection is needed in most hotels, and in some airports and restaurants Or you can plug wireless devices into your internet service at home, if you have it (GPS and Netflix and Kindle do not need it.) Anyone can phone thru Skype where there is free wireless.

Computers nowadays are being made smaller and handier with the latest software. The little "netbooks" can be used with older large displays, and some have nearly full-size keyboards. The biggest benefit is that anyone can carry them like a book and use them that way.

Google Voice simplifies phoning, once set up. Google provides a new phone number, free, with calls invisibly forwarded to any phone, including cell phones. Voice messages are translated to written messages and EMailed to recipients wherever they are. This is especially nice if hearing is a problem.

Google also has a simplified computer browser (Chrome), word processor, book finder, and reader (many free books), news, Email, and much else, if you have a computer. All are very useful. More ambitious, but worth teaching yourself how to use.