Q: I’m interested in getting my 78-year-old mother a tablet for video calls and email but want to get one that’s super simple to use. What can you recommend? — Shopping Around
A: There are several different ways you can go about getting your mom a simplified tablet that’s easy for her to use. Depending on how much help she needs and how much you’re willing to spend, here are some different options to consider.
Simplify a tablet
If you or your mom already has a tablet, but it’s too difficult for her to use, you can install a free senior-friendly software application on it like Oscar Senior (oscarsenior.com), which works on Apple iPads and Android tablets.
This app will change the appearance and performance of your tablet into a simplified device with big understandable icons to only commonly used features (video calls, photos, instant messages, Internet, news, weather, reminders, contacts, etc.) for easy navigation, with no clutter. It even offers remote access capabilities so you can gain access to your mom’s tablet from your smartphone, so you can see what she sees, and help her if she gets stuck.
Limited tech skills
If you’re interested in purchasing your mom a new tablet that’s specifically designed for seniors, you have options here too, depending on how simple it needs to be.
For seniors with some, but limited, computer/tablet skills, there’s AARP’s RealPad, which is an Android Intel tablet with a 7.85-inch touchscreen that provides a simplified home page with large text icons to frequently used functions. It also comes with 24/7 phone support, and a “Real QuickFix” tool that connects users to technology support agents over the Internet who can access the tablet and fix problems. Available at AARPrealpad.org for only $60, AARP recently announced that the RealPad will be discontinued when inventory sells out in a few months, but they will continue offering customer/technical support throughout the life of the product.
No tech skills
If your mother is completely unfamiliar with technology, two simpler options are the grandPad and Claris Companion.
GrandPad is a 7-inch touchscreen Android tablet that is designed for seniors, ages 75 and older. It comes with a stylus, charging stand and Verizon 4G LTE built-in so it works anywhere within the Verizon network — home Wi-Fi is not necessary.
This tablet provides a simplified menu of big colorful icons and large text, to only essential features, giving your mom clutter-free, one-touch access to make phone calls and video calls, send voice emails, view photos and videos, listen to personalized music, check the weather, play games and more. But, to simplify usage and avoid confusion, it does not offer Web browsing.
GrandPad also has a “Help” button that offers 24/7 phone/tablet remote assistance to help your mom with any facet of her tablet, and it provides damage and theft insurance so if your mom breaks or loses her tablet it will be replaced at no additional cost. Available at grandPad.net or call 800-704-9412, a grandPad leases for $60 per month or $53 a month if you pay one year in advance.
Another good option to check out is the Claris Companion (ClarisCompanion.com, 866-284-4939), which offers Wi-Fi and 4G tablets that costs $549 and $649 respectively, plus a $29 and $49 monthly subscription fee.
These tablets are designed specifically for elderly seniors living at home so their family can connect with them socially via video calls, email, text messages and photos. It also gives caregivers the ability to receive alerts and monitor compliance with medications, treatments, and important appointments.
Claris Companions are 10-inch Android tablets that have big buttons and text to only essential functions. They come in a thick bamboo frame, with a charging stand that prop them up, and can be customized to fit your mom’s needs and abilities. Claris also offers a lower cost tablet option for $349 and an Android app for $29.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit savvysenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior.”