Apps and accessories for grandma's tablet

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By Laura Haight

If you decided to get a tablet for your favorite senior, you are halfway home. But whatever flavor of tablet you bought, it is only going to be as good as the apps you put on it. 

Here are a few ideas that enable seniors to capitalize on the opportunities that the tablet presents.

Hardware

With apologies to Steve Jobs, get a stylus. Older hands are less nimble getting around a virtual keyboard. Early frustration with pressing in the wrong place, getting the wrong result, may cause an older user to just give up. Not what you want. 

For the same reason, consider a Bluetooth keyboard. This depends on what you think your senior will be doing but if any letter writing or lengthier emails might be involved, a keyboard may help bridge the gap between the strange and new and the familiar.

Reading

Reading is an important activity for most seniors who grew up with newspapers, magazines and real books.  This also happens to be one of the features tablets were designed to do best. 

For reading books, even as an Apple user to the core, I think the Kindle app is better. Primarily because it is very accessible. No matter what device I am on, I can use it. Because it is so widely used, many public library systems can deliver borrowed ebooks directly to the Kindle app, without requiring an intervening piece of software like Overdrive

My mother doesn't know anything about blogging, but I set her up with Flipboard an app that aggregates content from thousands of sources across the Internet, including blogs, newspapers, magazines, and social media feeds. I picked a few areas of interest to her - cooking, crossword puzzles, art and photography and pets and I added those subscriptions. Now she's got a nice array of well-presented content at her fingertips.

Games

Don't assume that your mom or dad won't want to play games online. Shooting zombies or angry birds probably won't be high on the list, but crosswords, sudoku, card games and familar games like Mah Jong, dominos, Scrabble all have online apps - mostly free. The great thing about games like this is they will have a dual effect: providing some entertainment and engagement and also exercising the brain.

Staying in touch

My mom lives across the country from me and in the best case I see her twice a year. That's hard and as she ages, I find I feel the need to see her. I can tell a lot more about how she's feeling by looking in her eyes than hearing her voice. Skype, ooVoo, or FaceTime (for Apple devices) are all really easy apps to set up and configure. Once set up, they don't really have to touch them. Just pick up the device when it rings and hit the ANSWER CALL button. I had set up Skype on my mom's computer, but she kept deleting or moving the icon from the desktop. On her tablet, that doesn't happen. Now she calls me.

Entertainment

Listening to music is relaxing, soothing - and often far beyond the abilities of my mom and other seniors she knows. Fiddling with FM radio stations is a pain. Newspapers (if they have one) don't run radio listings anymore so it's hard to find. And most stations cater to young listeners. Enter Pandora. I set my mom up with a Frank Sinatra channel and a classical music channel and she will probably never go beyond that.

It's easy to get caught up and start loading up a lot of apps; I urge restraint. Select a few that your senior will really use and then add as appropriate.