Tablets Can Help Older People Cross the “Digital Divide”
Michigan State University researchers have found a way to make it easier for older people to get online, breaking down some of the barriers that can keep them from getting connected. Since you’re reading this on ThirdAge, you clearly don’t have that problem! However, some of your friends or family members might. Why not share this with them?
A release from MSU explains that one way to help Boomers and Beyond cross what’s known as the “digital divide” is the use of tablets, those smaller, lighter, easy-to-use computers that seem to be taking the place of laptops.
In addition to being smaller, lighter and more portable, tablets allow people to maneuver online without having to move and click a mouse.
The release quotes lead researcher Shelia Cotten, an MSU professor of media and information, as saying, “The dexterity required to control a mouse is really hard for some older adults. A certain level of muscle control is needed. And some older adults have shaking issues, in addition to muscle-control issues in their hands and arms.”
Cotten also said that in most cases, tablets are just easier to use, especially for people who don’t have a lot of computer experience.
“For the most part they are pretty easy to operate,” she said. “You don’t have to click on 12 different things to do what you want to do. It helps to ease their tech anxiety.”
The researchers also found that when an elderly person’s family recommended a certain type of tablet and helped them learn how to use it, that contributed to their computer-use confidence as well. They learned how to use tablets by watching others use them and also by playing around on the tablets themselves.
It’s a fact that getting online can help the elderly feel more connected to family and friends, as well as providing them with useful information.
“For example, it allows them to be more proactive in their health care,” Cotten said. “They have access to health information, electronic medical records and so on.”
Last year, Cotten and colleagues published research that found Internet use among the elderly can help ward off depression.
“It’s all about older persons being able to communicate, to stay in contact with their social networks and just not feel lonely,” she said.”
Cotten said tablets will be increasingly used by older adults, noting the recent announcement of collaboration between Apple, IBM and Japan Post to disseminate 5 million tailored iPads to older adults in Japan.