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Windows 8: A Tech Gift to Seniors and Family Caregivers?

Windows 8: A Tech Gift to Seniors and Family Caregivers?

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Is Windows 8 the next great thing? For many seniors – and the family caregivers who have been trying to get them online – that just may be the case.

Why so? What about Windows 8 gives it the potential to be something special for many seniors? The two biggest things are the availability (finally) of touchscreen computing on mainstream, large screen computers and a user interface that makes it easier to get to what you want to do on the computer.

We should probably make it clear up front there is NO compensation involved in our discussion of Windows 8. Our interest is in helping family caregivers identify and learn about tools which may help make better the lives of senior loved ones. Based on what we’ve seen and read so far about Windows 8, we put it in that category.

Many Seniors Not Yet Online

It thrills us to see that seniors are jumping online in greater numbers every day, with many of them using Facebook and other social networking sites. What they’re doing online is a topic for another day. Today’s topic is a potential tool to get even more of our elder family members active online.

There are still millions of seniors not online and lots of reasons behind that – – including many who have no interest even after family members try to convince them of the benefits. We have heard from a number of seniors and family members who say usability is a limiting factor. Computer keyboards are not friendly to some aging fingers and touchscreen smartphones are just too small to be practical for many of them. Complexity of access is also named as an issue. While operating systems are vastly more user-friendly than in the early days of personal computing, it could be easier to find and do what we want on the Windows-based computers most people use at work and at home.

Many seniors – as well as a number of their juniors – have taken a liking to tablets (of which the iPad and Kindle Fire are top sellers) as a way to access the web and especially social networking sites. Tablets offer touch control and ease of access over most PCs, as well as a much more user-friendly screen size compared to smartphones – though their size advantage over smartphones is diminishing.

Windows 8 to the Rescue?

Not quite, as it’s going to need some help in order get all the benefits it offers. On top of that, if history is any indication there will be reports of bugs, as few packages are in perfect shape when shipped and previous versions of Windows have been poster children for “not perfect.” Still, it does offer some great benefits that can help us get senior loved ones active online.

  • Touchscreen capability – Yes, this is the big one, providing great capability without the need (or with minimal need) to use the keyboard. The “big” difference between other common touchscreen devices is the size of the screen that can be used to operate the device through touch.  From ultrabooks through desktop monitors and all-in-ones, there are likely to be screen sizes to meet all needs.
  • Easy-to-Use Interface – The applications used most often, which may be all the applications used for some people, can be laid out on the home screen, just a touch away. We really like this feature when we saw Windows 8 in action, though admittedly not nearly as much as the touchscreen access.
  • Compatibility with Family Members’ PCs – Most people still use Windows-based computers at work and/or home, something that’s not likely to change soon, especially with this move made by Microsoft. Sure, it may be a while before Windows 8 is adopted on many existing computers but we expect it is just a matter of time. In the meantime, we are still looking at compatibility between the software used on computers running new and older versions.

We recognize there are already computing devices with touch capability on larger screens and ease of access, most targeted to seniors. We have touted and praised some of them in the past for helping to fill the need. For whatever reason those devices never hit the mainstream the way, though, at least not nearly in the way, Microsoft’s new offering does.

Touchscreen Capabilities Require New Laptops or Monitors

For all the features of Windows 8, it needs some help from your computer to activate the most important feature, touch capability. The laptop or monitor used has to be designed with touch capability built into it as well. For most people that means buying new equipment. Not surprisingly, manufacturers with names big and small have raced to roll out new laptops of all sizes, new desktop computers and all-in-ones (computer and monitor in one) specially designed to make use of touchscreen capability.

Yes, this means an added expense to get the benefits we’ve outlined. It looks like the new equipment covers all price ranges, though, so there should be something for all pocketbooks. All these devices come pre-loaded with Windows 8, of course, so that cost is built into the price.

Many seniors not currently active online don’t have computers in their homes, so investment in some device would be needed to give them access to the web. Given it’s so hard to pick out gives for our senior loved ones, maybe WE got a holiday gift from Microsoft as well.

Hmmm…is it merely coincidence Windows 8 is being rolled out just before the holiday shopping season?

We are going to be watching the reports on Windows 8 and the new touchscreen devices, not to mention upgrading our own computers as well (maybe not all at once!), and will report back to you on what we read, hear and see for ourselves. In the meantime, we wanted to make you aware of the potential benefits to the lives of senior loved ones.

4 Responses to Windows 8: A Tech Gift to Seniors and Family Caregivers?

  1. Hi Barry

    Like you I am a senior.

    While I believe it’s correct to assume Windows 8 will eventually become a new standard, I believe also that many computers have already found their way into seniors hands without the touch screen necessary for a decent user experience.

    I recently bought a laptop which I believe is the best compromise I’ve found to date between a tablet and a notebook. It’s the HP AMD A4 Elite Mobile TouchSmart notebook which sells for somewhere between four and five hundred dollars here in Canada.

    It has the advantages of a tablet along with those of a notebook and is just the thing for Windows 8 newbies.

    Colin

  2. Thanks for the interesting article and responses!

    While Windows 8 looks to offer many improvements, I’m afraid I’m a lot more comfortable with the look and feel of earlier versions like Windows XP on my laptop.

    Google’s Android operating system also offers a lot of potential for seniors because of it’s ability for customization. I’m currently designing a tablet interface for my own older relatives. Anyone can download it for free in Google Play at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.proto.ui and I would love to get some of your views on what we can improve.

    Lari

We'd love to hear your thoughts!





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Proud to be included as #3!