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Which technologies are right for your seniors?

Smartphones, laptops, smart televisions, gaming machines … so many choices in a rapidly changing world.

Technology can support and delight our elders, but how do they get started?

AbilityNet, an organisation supporting older people and people living with disability to use technology, has offered some really useful definitions and pointers.

How do you choose a new device?

First, consider why you need it.

PCs and desktops

A PC or a desk top computer is useful if you want to do a lot of gaming, for example, and you need a powerful computer or you want to increase the storage space.


A laptop will serve most people’s needs, and you can plug in a separate keyboard and mouse and large screen if that helps. A laptop has a camera and microphone so you can also make video calls. It’s also good for writing documents or spreadsheets, or more complex documents. The laptop is also portable and you don’t need a large physical place to keep it, as you do with a desktop.

Tablets and smartphones

Tablets and smartphones are ideal because they are smaller. You can put a phone in your pocket, yet it’s a very powerful machine.

They work by using touch screens. When you press on the screen in an area that you can type a keyboard appears on the screen. They also have cameras and microphones. You can use them for video calls and to take photographs that you share them with people directly from the tablet and the phone.

The tablet’s advantage is that it’s got a slightly bigger screen. So, it’s good to watch online entertainment from sources such as i-Player.

The range of apps available for these devices is enormous. You can download reputable apps from the local bus company and rail company, for example, to find journey times and purchase tickets. You can log into your NHS app to check your record, find results and book appointments. Apps can help you run your life, enjoy your hobbies, and communicate with other people.

Another great world to enjoy on a phone, a tablet or a desktop is podcasts. A podcast is an audio or video file that you can listen to on the internet. They are made by organisations such the BBC or individuals and it’s like listening to radio programmes, but with a huge choice and in your own time. If you have a famous celebrity they may have a podcast, or search for a topic you are interested in.

Many people sign up for social media on their phones, laptops or desktops. Social media includes Facebook where you can join groups with common interests, as well as local groups. Other popular social media includes X (Twitter), Instagram and Tik-Tok, but they are not necessary to enjoy full use of the internet.

One consideration if you are buying a smartphone or tablet is whether you already have something similar and what make it is. For example, Apple products are similar in the way they present to the user. So, if you have an iPad tablet already it makes sense to get an iPhone as it will all look familiar. The other most popular system is Android, which is used by a wide range of manufacturers. So, if you have a Samsung tablet it might be easier to use a Samsung phone. You can find fact sheets on the AbilityNet website.

Smart watches

Smart watches are great for exercise and tracking your steps. They can even track your sleep and record when you are dreaming. They can also track your heart rate and GPS location and show notifications from the phone, like text messages and another notifications on the phone. The smartwatch connects to your phone through a technology called Bluetooth and all the information you would like to see appears on the phone.

Smart TVs

A smart TV can also let you view online catch-up TV, like i-player and Channel 4. You can connect phones and tablets and laptops to display them on the screen to get a bigger screen.

You could watch a video from your tablet. You can listen to the radio. You can browse the internet.

You can also buy an Amazon fire stick for more services, which you can connect to the TV.

Getting started

When you get your device out of box it’s not necessarily tailored to your own needs and there is lots of simple free adjustments you can make to help it work better for you without buying additional software.

For example, you can make the text bigger. You can have things read aloud to you.

You can choose on option to have captions on videos just like this one today. You can also speak to your device if you would rather do that than typing.

You can change setting on the device and reverse the colours on the screen so you have white writing on a black background. Some people find that easy on the eyes.

There are many more tools that can help you enjoy your device though they can seem a little overwhelming to start with. The key is to be patient with yourself. Ask for help at any time. Don’t let your enthusiasm be damped by others, go on at your own pace. Don’t compare yourself to anyone, set yourself small realistic goals. Practice makes perfect and don’t panic. It will make sense in the end.

This article is taken from a series of really helpful webinars hosted by AbilityNet.

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