Computers For Senior Citizens
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Computers For Senior Citizens

"What are the best computers for senior citizens?"

Before I give you a helpful answer, let me give you two reasons why this isn't a helpful question…

1) All Seniors are NOT the Same

For one, asking what the "best computer for seniors" is lumps us all into this one generalized category called "Senior Citizens". It doesn't take into consideration our interests, talents, levels of experience, or backgrounds — or even our age!

The only thing we really have in common as "Senior Citizens" is that we were all born before a certain date.

2) Older does NOT Mean "Unable to Learn"

That question also plays into the fears that many of us pick up as we get older — that we are outdated, incapable of learning new things, and won't be able to grasp the new technology that the younger folks seem to pick up so quickly and easily.

Many of us have had the experience of watching a young child crawl up to a computer, or grab an iPad, and start using it lickety-split without any questions asked! Meanwhile, we sit there staring at the device, pondering, and analyzing, and getting nowhere.

We have to remember that children are programmed to learn things quickly — No matter what it is. Whether it's using a computer, riding a bike, or skiing.

(I remember being face-down in the snow on a ski slope when learning how to ski, while small children all around me — none of whom looked old enough to walk yet — went whizzing by me effortlessly.)

As we get older, we accumulate a lot of habits and thinking patterns that get in the way of learning new things quickly. So, we have to used different learning techniques to pick up new skills, and get them to stick.

Scientists have already proven that we can learn new skills and create new brain pathways well into old age. As long as we have the interest and the will, we can learn it.

HELPFUL QUESTIONS

This is not to say that being a so-called "senior" shouldn't be a consideration when selecting a computer. Just that there are more useful questions to ask yourself when selecting a computer to buy.

The first kinds of questions you should ask will be about yourself, how you will be using the computer, and who you'll be using the computer with.

Then, you can start asking the questions about computers that will determine which one is best for YOU. As opposed to some generic and ambiguous group of people called "Senior Citizens".

Questions About Yourself

  • Are you NEW to computers, or do you have a little experience? People with some experience will have an easier time learning to use any new computer. If you're a little tentative about coming back into the fold, however, you'll probably want to get a computer that you are familiar with — even if only mildly so. That will reduce the learning curve. If you're an absolute newbie, you have a wider range of options. Any computer you choose will have the same learning curve. You will want to assess your ability and willingness to learn, and your access to help and information.
  • Are you excited about learning to use the computer, or reluctant? Being excited about using the computer will make it easier to learn more and learn faster. If you're dreading it, or feel like you're being forced to learn, you'll probably want to go with simpler solutions that will reduce the number of things to learn (and, thus, the computer's capabilities).
  • What will you be using the computer for? Will you be doing basic things like looking at websites and sending email messages? Or, maybe having video conversations with your distant children and grandchildren? Or, do you want to use the computer to enhance your hobbies or business endeavors? Like editing videos and music, or spreadsheets for your business. Are you a photography buff? Even if you start off slow, you'll want to be sure the computer will grow with you as you become familiar with its use.
  • What computers are your friends and family using? This question is about the support you'll get from your community. Are they using Apple computers? Or Windows? While you'll be able to share pictures and send messages regardless of what your friends and family are using, you might not be able to get help quickly when you have questions. Using the same kind of computer that most people you know use will make it easier to learn and affirm how to use your computer.
  • How much space do you have for your computer? Do you have an entire desk set aside for this computer? Or is it something you'll need to put away when you're done using it? Will it need to fit inside a cubby of sorts? Perhaps you'll need take it with you to a coffee shop or work place. There are plenty of options in size and portability. Understand those needs while you're doing your research.
  • Are you technically inclined? I thought I'd toss this in last. Computers have evolved to the point that you don't need to be technically inclined to learn how to use a computer. However, if you like learning technical stuff, don't limit yourself to the simpler options. Get something you can learn and grow with.
  • Are you physically impaired? Do you have Arthritis, limited mobility, difficulty seeing or using your hands? Most computers nowadays give you various means of controlling them, including voice recognition and audio feedback. Look into the accessibility options on the computer you are considering.

COMPUTER OPTIONS

I think there are 3 general categories of computer you'll want to look into. I'll call them:

  • Simplified Computers
  • Mainstream Computers, and
  • Tablet Computers

Each has its own set of benefits and drawbacks…

Simplified Computers

There are a number of computers marketed to that huge target market called "Senior Citizens" and older adults for their simplicity and ease of use. The Telikin is one example of this. (It's also more well-known as the “WOW! Computer for Seniors.”)

These computers have been stripped of their broad versatility and limited to a few specific functions. This way, you are free of the often confusing and complicated options, and can focus on the few things you need to do with your computer.

They are excellent for people who want to connect socially with the world, and don't need to do anything more advanced than that. Read news, play games, send and receive email, share pictures, and have video calls with friends and family around the world.

It even uses a large type for people whose vision is impaired.

The main tradeoff for this simplicity, however, is that you won't be able to use it for more advanced applications if you want to expand. If you want to use the computer to advance your hobbies or business endeavors, this is probably not your best choice.

Mainstream Computers

What I call Mainstream Computers are the two most widely used and most versatile computers available: Windows PCs and Apple Macs.

These have the most potential for growth and capabilities. These are what you most likely come across at libraries, coffee shops, and people's homes.

Windows PCs

Windows computers, or PCs (personal computers) are the most commonly used computers. While they are made by various brands (i.e. Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Compaq, Gateway, Sony, Acer, Toshiba, Asus, Lenovo, etc.), they all have one thing in common:

They all run Microsoft's "Windows" operating system. Which is just a way of controlling a computer with a mouse and keyboard.

All that competition means that prices are driven down to a minimum. So, you'll be able to easily and cheaply customize your computer with various configurations of hardware and software — to get just the right mix for your needs.

Another advantage to Windows PCs are that they are used by more people in the world than any other. Once you know how to use one, you'll be able to walk up to just about any computer in the world and know how to use it.

That also means that help is never far away. While you're getting to know the basics, you'll have more people you can reach out to for help or answers to your questions.

Those advantages in versatility and widespread use are also the PCs greatest weaknesses.

For one, all those options can be overwhelming. Which brand? How much memory? How big a hard drive? How big a screen? You can find yourself researching options to exhaustion. But at least you'll understand more about what you're getting.

The flexibility of Windows also leaves it vulnerable to viruses and malware. These are basically programs your computer is tricked into running that will render your computer useless, or expose your personal information. It's the computer equivalent of vandalism and theft.

You can get them from the internet, or by sharing files with friends and strangers. Fortunately there are anti-virus programs that can protect you from all these problems. It's an ongoing battle, however. Like the war on drugs.

Apple Macs

Macs are my preferred recommendation for older adults who are new to computers.

Once only used by students and graphics professionals, Apple computers are finally making their way into the mainstream.

Apple has gone out of its way to give you a powerful computer, that's almost invulnerable to viruses and malware (evil programs that damage your computer experience), and is ready to do just about everything you need it to do right out of the box.

The downside is that all this convenience comes at a premium price. (There are ways to get Macs cheaply online.) While you can get the same hardware, technical equipment and capabilities cheaper with a Windows PC, you're not paying that extra money for the computer: You're paying for the rock-solid quality, the virus resistance, and the smooth seamless computing experience.

Tablet Computers

This category includes Apple iPads and Samsung Galaxy. But everyone seems to call them "iPads" because those were the first ones to the market.

Make no mistake: These are full-fledged computers. You can email, look at websites, take pictures, have video conversations — the works!

These are straight out of an episode of Star Trek, and are some of the most popular computers available. The touch screens make them easy to learn and interact with, and their size makes them extremely portable.

If you

SUMMARY

Senior citizens range from their mid-sixties to over 100 years old. We start going grey and immediately lump ourselves into this huge and diverse group of people called "Senior Citizens". Don't fall for that limiting generalization.

Just because your hair is going grey doesn't mean your grey matter is going black. Science now shows that you can learn new things and create new brain pathways well into old age.

It's about each individual's comfort level, interests, and relative mental acuity.

For some people, getting the simplest computer available is the best option. You just want to get the thing on and use it to talk to friends, see the news, etc.

For others, however, getting one of these super simple computers may actually be holding you back from learning some really helpful skills, and keeping your brain healthy and sharp.

A computer is supposed to enhance your life. Ask the right questions, and you'll be able to find the right computer for you. I hope this long article will help you do that.

Is there anything I missed that you think others will find helpful? Please feel free to leave your additional comments or questions regarding computers for seniors citizens below.

Thanks!

~ Scott


Street Talk

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