Just as the tablet has gained currency in the consumer market, a strong case can be made for these versatile devices in senior housing.
Lightweight, portable, easier to use, tablets have a form factor well suited to older users. They also can be packed full of functionality, with apps to drive wellness, enhance social connections and stave off isolation.
But which tablet to buy? The market surely offers many options. The key for senior housing leaders is to look at the baseline technology, the functions and features that will make a tablet inventory a sound investment for their communities.
One great advantage to the tablet format is the touch screen interface. Rather than having to wrangle with a mouse, which can take some level of dexterity, seniors can simple press a finger to the screen to select choices or push buttons. At the same time, some screens have been known to be oversensitive, jumping into action at the slightest connection. Look for a tablet with a responsive, but not over-responsive, touch screen interface.
The ability to easily see and read the screen can be a differentiator among tablets. Certainly all of today’s tablets meet the baseline of functionality: The brightness is at least adequate, the colors passably realistic. But as the saying goes, some tablets are more equal than others. A side by side comparison will show at a glance which picture is more vivid, which colors are brighter. The richness of the display will make a difference to seniors with any level of vision impairment, and housing directors will do well to look for devices with the clearest visibility.
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Today’s tablets are powerful machines. Unlike prior generations of devices, many sport full-blown operating systems, rather than lightweight “mobile” versions of the desktop system. As such, they can carry a full range of software applications including calendar alerts, pill reminds, and social components such as email and video chat. Many of these components can be monitored through a modern communications portal, which ties together social software and makes it easy for seniors to interact. With all this power comes a consideration: Build versus buy? Some tablets may come preloaded with a range of apps friendly to the needs of seniors. Some will need more custom installations, either based on off-the-shelf apps or custom uses developed by the housing provider. Either way, it pays to consider just how one is going to tap all that computing potential, and how much it will cost.
Finally, a tablet purchase decision ought to include a keyboard consideration. Some tablets have an integrated on-screen keyboard: Push a button and the alphabetic interface appears on the touch screen. Others have the option of attaching a physical keyboard, typically purchased separately. The choice of keyboard likely will depend on the preferences of the seniors who will be using the system, balanced against cost considerations. You’ll need a tool that fulfills both concerns.
That’s a lot to consider. Is it worth the effort? Almost certainly, yes. For the functionality a tablet brings, the quality of life it offers and the heightened level of service it can deliver to seniors, these devices may well be worth the investment.