Touch computing offers great potential to seniors who have limited dexterity or otherwise can’t or don’t want to use a keyboard and mouse – – or just want a more simplified way to use the computer. Until recently, though, those who wanted a touch computer had limited choice. Good devices to be sure, but with limitations.
That all changed, of course, with Microsoft’s release of Windows 8 and the accompanying computer industry offerings of new computers and monitors designed to take advantage of the operating system’s touch capability. That makes touchscreen PCs and Windows 8 great gifts to seniors from the tech industry, right? Well, maybe not so fast.
I have been using Windows 8 on two computers for a while now, one with a touchscreen and one without. While I am by no means a test case for new computer users or someone with diminished physical capability (nor am I yet a senior), I have tried to gauge the ease of use they would encounter.
Windows 8 Insights With Seniors in Mind
I’ve got a few reactions overall from my “test” usage of Windows 8.
- Windows 8’s touch interface is every bit as awesome as hoped – – now if only we could get those huge touchscreens we see on TV! It great to be able to move programs around with a touch or zoom in or out with a simply pinch. Yeah, you can do that one on a smartphone or tablet, but this is on a BIG screen!
- It may be harder for a traditional windows user to adapt to Windows 8 than those who are new, simply because the interface is SO different, at least if you try to use the distinctly Windows 8 features.
- A fair amount of initial setup is needed to put the Windows 8 user interface in condition to truly be easy for any user to operate simply, not to mention some practice with the gestures needed to drive the touch experience (and maybe a cheat sheet).
- Many people will find that “easy to use” has its limits, with users potentially taking themselves down paths they don’t intend and from which they can’t easily extricate themselves. Remembering the right gestures is also key.
That last bullet is really the “moody” aspect from the title. As great an advance as Windows 8 is, it can be terribly frustrating when you get into an app (yes, Windows has apps now, too) or simply try to find the app or menu item you want. What I encountered really was just nuisance, though, and can be avoided. Because of that, we’re going to move on how to make the experience a good one for senior loved ones and hopefully overcome seniors’ technology fears along the way.
Prepping a Windows 8 PC for a New Senior User
Some suggestions if getting a PC with Windows 8, hopefully with touch but some of these apply without, as a gift for a senior loved one or helping them get their own running. Adapt them based on the needs and capabilities of the users.
- Make a list of the applications, whether apps or traditional programs, and websites the senior(s) will want to use. Set those up on the Start screen so they can be accessed with a simple touch (or mouse click).
- Walk through the basic gestures needed to navigate and operate the computer with the user(s). Get in enough practice – – for them – – that there is comfort with the movements needed.
- Make a cheat sheet of the gestures as a reminder. The pictures that come with Windows 8 are good for this, maybe printed in a larger size. Put the sheet up on a wall or some other space near the computer where it can be quickly referenced when needed.
- Follow up after a week or two of use to see if things are going smoothly. Be sure to check in from time to time to see if new applications or websites need to be added to the start screen. (You may find this still isn’t needed after familiarity is achieved with both Windows 8 and the computer).
- Advanced topics as you go along include program and app updates as well as security, though the built-in security features with Windows 8 may meet the needs of many users.
Does that seem too simple? For many it might just be enough to make the computing experience a positive one. As with many things, some loved ones will need a little more help and others may not need that much.
Bottom line? Windows 8 might be just something that helps our senior loved ones get comfortable computing, going online and getting started on social media sites.
Maybe with a touch (pun intended) of help from you!