An iPad for All Ages

No computer skills required … and now no computer either


iPad for the Ages - from Toddlers to Seniors

Flickr photo credits: Toddler by, Senior by Courosa, licensed under Creative Commons


Everyone says the Apple iPad is intuitive, easy to learn, and easy to use. It almost seems tailored to toddlers and seductive to seniors. Grandparents and great grandparents with no prior computer experience can reconnect with family and make new friends online with email, social media, and video conferencing. But as easy and seductive as  iPad is, it still required a PC or Mac in order to download or upgrade its software. Not any more. Apple changed that last week with its iCloud announcement and its latest iOS 5 operating system.

With iOS 5, you no longer need a computer to own an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch. That’s because the software and applications can be downloaded from the Internet using Wi-Fi or a fast cellular network. This one feature opens vast new markets for Apple, because many seniors don’t want the complexity of a PC and home network. It also makes the iPad a great Telemedicine gateway between medical and home sensors and remote monitoring services.

The rest of this article expands on what I wrote a few days ago. “Apple iCloud implications for home health care” has videos from Apple’s June 6 product launch, but more details have come in since then. I now see even more possibilities for home health care and for people with disabilities. You can browse the Apple website for the details or just skim the highlights below.

  • Automatic wireless sync – iCloud automatically stores your content in a secure remote location and pushes changes to all your devices to keep everything in sync. It integrates with your apps and works with photos, documents, and music, as well as appointments, contacts & emails, and apps, books & backups.
  • No PC/Mac Required – With Apple’s latest iOS 5 operating system for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, you no longer need a computer. Software and apps can be downloaded using iCloud and a wireless network (Wi-Fi or 3G). This one feature makes the super easy-to-use 3G iPad2 a great Telemedicine gateway, connecting medical and home sensors to remote monitoring services. It opens new markets for Apple, because many seniors don’t have PCs or home networks and don’t want that complexity.
  • iTunes in the Cloud – Music purchased through iTunes appears automatically on all of your devices for free, unlike similar music services from Amazon & Google. Buy a new song on one device, and it’s downloaded automatically on all over either Wi-Fi or 3G. Your entire purchase history can be accessed by your PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. Apple doesn’t need to store separate copies of each song, because they can give users access to purchased songs from the 18 million songs stored in the iTunes store.
  • iTunes Match – Apple also has a solution for people with libraries of song ripped from CDs or purchased outside of iTunes. For $24.99 / year, iTunes Match will store that music too, and most of it is likely already in iCloud. When there’s a match, users have access to high-quality AAC digital encoding at 256 Kbps AAC, even if their original copy was of lower quality.
  • Newsstand – iOS 5 organizes your newspaper and magazine subscriptions in bookshelf format like iBooks. As new issues become available, they appear on the bookshelf showing the latest covers.
  • Reminders – Organize your life with shopping and to-do lists that sync with iCal, iCloud and Microsoft Outlook, and get location-based reminders by date on any of your devices. It can tell you to take your medication, pick up the laundry when you leave home, or stop by the grocery store when you leave work.
  • Notification Center – iOS 5 provides a convenient place to get all kinds of notifications: texts, mail, calls, voicemails, and other apps. New notifications appear briefly without interrupting what you’re doing.
  • iMessage – iOS 5 provides encrypted MMS-style messaging among individuals or groups with optional read receipts and ability to see when someone’s typing.
  • Twitter Integration – Sign in once in your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch settings, then then tweet directly from camera, photos, web pages, maps, or YouTube videos.
  • Camera – By pressing the Volume Up button, you can capture unexpected moments without first unlocking the camera and launching the Camera app. And if you have Photo Stream enabled, you new photos are automatically pushed to your other devices.
  • Photos – Now photo editing is built in. Remove red-eye, enhance, crop and rotate within the Photos app.
  • More Features – iOS 5 also has enhancements to Mail and Calendar, and several other new features like Game Center, Multitasking Gestures to switch between apps, Wi-Fi Sync to a PC or Mac, AirPlay Mirroring to stream whatever’s on your iPad screen to your HDTV.

Apple iPad split keyboard lets you type with your thumbsApple Accessibility

Apple’s commitment to accessibility shows in the features included in its products and in iOS 5, including support for vision, hearing, physical & motor skills, and cognitive disabilities.

  • Safari Reader – Not only does Apple’s new web browser eliminate ads and let you save articles for reading later, it will even read the text aloud.
  • Split Keyboard – A new split keyboard lets you compose messages on the iPad with only your thumbs.
  • Zoom – The iPad screen can show content in landscape or portrait mode with large or small font and with the ability to zoom in and out to show images or other screen elements.
  • VoiceOver – iPad has a gesture-based screen reader that lets user enjoy the iPad even if they are blind or have problems seeing the screen. Because VoiceOver is integrated with the iBooks app, books can be read aloud in any of 21 languages. Navigation is also made simpler. As you drag your finger around the screen, you learn what’s underneath and nearby with a user-adjustable speaking rate. And to help with entering text, VoiceOver can echo each character and enter it when you lift your finger, and speak each completed word as you type. And for blind users, there are dozens of Braille displays that can attach to the iPad. Visit the link to learn more.

Other accessibility features not covered in this article include:

  • Closed-captioning on iTunes,
  • Hands-free Speakerphone,
  • LED Flash on calls,
  • Custom Vibrations,
  • Custom Gestures,
  • Tactile buttons,
  • Voice control,
  • TTY support,
  • MMS Chat, and
  • FaceTime.

Mac OS X Lion

Apple also enhanced its desktop operating system with new features, including many derived from the popular iPad. For details, visit the Apple website or watch their video here.

10 thoughts on “An iPad for All Ages

  1. Great article! To activate the iPad it will have to be taken into the Apple store or connected to a mac. Unless thats changing as well? The iPad makes it easy for users to get in and get out, another reason my seniors love it is because they are able to be social with it, for ex, take the ipad to the library, common areas of their independent living center etc. Again, technology is always changing but the constant is connection.

    1. Thanks, Becca. ‘Happy to hear that your seniors love it. Yes, the iPad does need to be activated at the Apple store, but once that’s done, any updates can happen over the 3G cellular service or your center’s Wi-Fi network. It’s the iOS 5 operating system that eliminates the need for a PC. You may also want to read What’s so cool about the iPad for video conferencing is the ability to hold it in a way that the camera shows others what you want them to see, such as “where it hurts”.

    2. Activation can now be done over WiFi (probably 3G as well). You really do not need to connect to a PC or MAC at all.

      1. Thanks for visiting Modern Health Talk and contributing to the discussion of iPads for seniors. My wife and I just bought a 2nd iPad Sunday, this time an iPad2, and today we replaced her failing iPhone 3 with a iPhone 4S. With our only son living 300 miles away, we’re looking forward to using FaceTime to visually connect with him and our new granddaughter. And we’re anxious to use iCloud to push photos, music, contacts, and more between our different systems.

        In a sense, I find it amazing that I’ve become so much of a fan of iPhone, iPod & iPad (but I don’t use Macs), since I worked 30 years at IBM and helped launch the IBM PC in 1981 and, after retiring from IBM, I worked for 2 years at Dell. Even while competing with them, I developed utmost respect for Steve Jobs and Apple.

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