Is the iPhone 5c the Right Choice for the Elderly?

iphone 5c


In terms of the amount of eager anticipation it brought, it ranked a close second behind the birth of the Royal Baby. I’m talking, of course, about the Apple’s latest iPhone launch.

In case you missed it, Apple announced yesterday the release of the iPhone 5C. This cheaper version of its flagship iPhone will allow Apple to win the favour of currently untapped markets like people who live in developing countries and, it has been speculated, the elderly.

Whether or not the Applie’s iPhone 5C smartphone catches on with seniors remains to be seen but one thing is for sure, when it comes to smartphones, older people have been slow to get on the bandwagon.

A 2013 survey by Pew Research Center found that while 56% of the American adult population own a smartphone of some kind, only 18% of Americans over the age of 65 own one. This discrepancy begs the question, why?

If you were to ask my husband, he’d tell you in a heartbeat that it’s because the screen display is too small. At 53, he hasn’t yet crossed into the category of “senior” but like many of us who are middle-aged and over, reading anything with small print is a challenge. Maybe reading a smartphone display is just too darn hard to make it worth the while of many seniors.

Laurie Orlov, the guru behind the Aging in Place Technology Watch blog thinks it has more to do with usability, or more accurately, lack thereof.

“The usability of smart phones is pitiful,” says Orlov. “I should know. I’ve had several in the past few years. And I am highly motivated to use the device, regardless of who makes it. I have pinched, swiped, pressed, zoomed, dragged icons around, tipped the device vertically and on its side. I’ve navigated to-from, here and there, and occasionally I even speak marginally well-understood instructions. I’ve searched blogs for tips on how to accomplish tasks. Each time, I’ve tried to shape the phone’s apps into the set of tools that I need to be comfortable. Each newer phone has sucked hours out of my life and tested my tolerance for frustration. As my angst has grown trying to make the phone do what I want (which, so help me, is to be more like the last phone that sits broken nearby), my hands begin to shake. I curse, I search for a manual. Oh yeah, there isn’t one with this phone – but you have the option to download it if you like. Why no manual?  Because the arrogant nerds who develop and review the product think that its use is, and of course you know I am not kidding, absolutely intuitive.

I offer a third hypothesis; perhaps it’s because older adults don’t understand what’s in it for them. Having lived with a phone for most, if not all, of their life, it’s not a big stretch to grasp the benefits of a mobile phone. But a smartphone? Some may wonder why they need such a “fancy” device and if Apple is indeed hoping to reach the large over 65 demographic who have yet to purchase their first smartphone, Apple may have to speak to them as much or more about functionality as about price.

What do you think? Why have seniors been slow to adopt smartphones?

–          Posted by Karen

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Has Technology Come Far Enough?


Recently, yet another survey telling us seniors are crazy for technology came across our desk. This one, The United States of Aging, published last month by the National Council of Aging, tells us that 75 percent of seniors use cell phones, 68 percent use computers, 65 percent use the Internet, and 62 percent use email.

On the face of things, this is great news. When we originally launched PointerWare, the majority of seniors – particularly older seniors – were not online. Five years later the tide appears to be turning. But has it? Look a little more closely and you’ll see that we still have a way to go.

According to the same survey, 34 percent of the seniors who responded said that a lack of understanding is still a barrier to them using more technology. In fact, the top reason seniors cited that was preventing them from using more technology is, “I don’t understand how to use it.” In other words, the spirit is willing but the interface is weak.

The sad thing is that seniors who don’t use technology are missing out. According to The United States of Aging report, almost all (87 percent) of the seniors surveyed said that technology was important in helping them stay in touch with family and friends. They also said it helped them keep up with the world (84 percent), learn new things (80 percent), and stay mentally sharp (79 percent).

As one commenter to news of the survey put it:

“Fact of the matter: Grandmas need Facebook more than the kids. They get to see others in school, at social functions, etc. It is merely an extension of their universe. Older folks are often more isolated and embrace/respect this level of social networking far more than the young ‘uns.”

What do you think? Have we come far enough or is technology still too hard for seniors to use?

–          Posted by Karen

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Project GOAL – Get Older Adults onLine



Backed by technology heavyweights including Facebook, Microsoft, Verizon and Comcast, Project GOAL (Get Older Adults onLine) – an initiative to get more seniors on the web – was launched earlier this year.

The goal behind GOAL is to increase the adoption of broadband services by older adults while at the same time calling more attention to the challenges seniors face in the adoption and use of technology.

It’s a worthwhile aim and something that we’ve been talking about since day one. PointerWare was developed to help seniors connect online and in so doing, enjoy a better quality of life. Impressive statistics from Digital Unite, an organization dedicated to helping people of any age realise the benefits of using technology, shows that of people over 55 who use the Internet, 86% say that it has improved their lives, 72% say being online has helped reduced feelings of isolation, and 81% say that the Internet makes them feel like part of the modern society.

Do you know a senior who has benefited from getting online? Tell us their story.

–          Posted by Karen


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New Email and Photo Features

MainViewPhotoAlbum (2)


If you’re an existing PointerWare customer, you know that we aim to please. That’s why we’ve been busy recently working on a software upgrade that takes some of our users requests into account. Without any further ado, here is what you need to know about the new PointerWare features.


PointerWare got its start as a way to make it super-easy for seniors to send, receive, and manage emails. Now something good has just gotten better. With this latest release, we’ve improved the email reader view. Users can now expand and read emails in full-screen and when they’re done, they can easily close the full-screen and get back to all of the emails found in their inbox.

And while we’re on the topic of the emails in your inbox, we’ve improved the way emails are delivered to you. Not only are the most recent emails are downloaded/delivered first, they are displayed at the top of the list so you can easily see and find the latest item at the top.

Saving Photos and Creating Albums

We have improved our already much-loved photo management system. Not only can photos that are received as an attachment be easily downloaded into the PointerWare photo browser with one simple click, our new photo-management system allows users to easily organize their photos into custom albums. You can directly import an entire photo album from your local computer into the PointerWare browser.

Improved Support for Institutional Licenses

Up to now, if institutional supporters who offered PointerWare to their residents wanted to add or delete users, they had to go through the PointerWare website. For anyone with an institutional license, our latest version includes an easy feature for managing users that is part of the PointerWare client itself. Before logging in, supporters can press the button labeled Touch here for help on the bottom left corner of the screen in order to access the manage users feature.

For those new to PointerWare, you can begin enjoying these new features as soon as you download PointerWare onto your computer. Current PointerWare customers can upgrade their version of the software simply by logging into PointerWare and following the prompts.

–          Posted by Karen

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Pinterest for Seniors


Haven’t heard of Pinterest? You soon will. With over 48 million registered users, it’s hard to keep a social media site like this a secret.

Pinterest is a social media site where people go to create and look at virtual pin-boards. They assemble or “pin” images they like then, if they want, share the boards with family, friends and other Pinterest users who may go on to re-pin those images on their own boards.

What does Pinterest have to do with seniors and technology you ask? Plenty. As a minimum, seniors can enjoy looking at the Pinterest boards created by others. Google, “elderly and Pinterest” (I suggest using the search term “elderly” rather than “senior” as the latter will turn up hundreds of links to high school seniors) and you’ll get links to cool boards like “Inspiring Quotes for Caregivers to Seniors”, “Arts and Crafts for the Elderly”, “Activities for the Elderly”, “Old Age is Not For Sissies”, and more. Go to those links and you’ll find captivating pictures, thought-provoking comments and access to even more.

If you’re a senior who is a little more adventurous, you can register as a Pinterest user and create your own board (or boards). It’s a creative, fun, and pleasantly addictive way to take scrapbooking to a whole new level. If you’re interested, here’s a link to a how-to crash course.

If you’re a family member, you might want to use Pinterest to create a private online photo-album that you can share with the senior or seniors in your life.

Do any of you use Pinterest? What about other popular social media site? We’d love to hear about it.

–       Posted by Karen

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Online Bill Payments Leaves Seniors Out

Online bill paymentsI keep forgetting to pay my cable bill. I’ve got a good(ish) excuse; my cable provider no longer mails subscribers paper copies of their bill. Instead, once a month they dash off an email reminding me that it’s time to pay up. Good in theory but here’s the thing, having those paper invoices lying around on my kitchen counter reminded me that I need to take some kind of action. Email reminders in my Inbox that get mixed in with Groupon deals for mole-hair removal and emails from friends with links to YouTube cat videos don’t have the same effect.

The problem extends beyond bill payments. In an article in the New York Times last month, Paula Span gave several examples of how so many common things are becoming digital:

Even simple tasks like finding phone numbers for local businesses may soon require Web access. How long will there be print yellow pages? How long will there be movie listings in print newspapers? For that matter, how long will there be print newspapers? Without Internet access, older people could feel even more cut off than many already do.

More and more, an assumption is being made that everyone is online and for many seniors, that assumption is leaving them behind. Even when companies give customers the choice of paying their accounts online or via the traditional paper billing system, there is an additional surcharge imposed to cover the cost of mailing a paper invoice, something that most seniors on a fixed income would prefer to avoid.

Is this something seniors should have to deal with? How about you? Do you know a senior who’s had or is having difficulty because a business they deal with has gone digital?

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New Vehicle Safety Ratings may Protect Elderly Individuals

Happy senior out driving the old car

Driving is an important and useful tool when it comes to independent living. It enables individuals to go about their daily tasks, whether that’s grocery shopping, visiting family and friends or engaging in a hobby or activity. Lately, older drivers have been targeted in many conversations, one of which is a discussion about at what age they should no longer continue to be on the road.

new article states that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is suggesting two new safety ratings that are geared toward old drivers and families. Michael Cerussi, a driver education instructor who owns Cerussi Driving School, has lent his support to the proposal of new vehicle safety ratings that focus specifically on elderly drivers. On its website, the NHTSA explains that it is working on developing a “silver” rating that would review the safety of the car for an older driver.

The NHTSA notes that the rating would be an addition to the current NCAP five-star safety ratings, which were developed in 1978. Any changes to the NCAP system could take up to three or four years to be put into place.

Recently, there has been an influx of older drivers, often referred to as “the silver tsunami.” AARP notes that 16 percent of licensed drivers in America are over the age of 65. By 2025, the organization expects that one in five U.S. drivers will be 65 or older. By 2030, 57 million elderly drivers will take the road, as opposed to only 37 million today.

According to Statistics Canada, in 2009, 3.25 million people aged 65 and over had a driver’s licence—three-quarters of all seniors. Of that number, about 200,000 were aged 85 and over. Since people in their 80s and over are, and will continue to be, a fast-growing segment of the senior population, the number of elderly drivers will also continue to increase at a rapid pace.

The proposed silver rating for older drivers is necessary, NHTSA said, because older vehicle occupants are usually less able to endure crash forces than younger drivers. The silver rating aims to help these motorists find information that can enable them to purchase a car that protects them more effectively.

“Older drivers have a different set of needs than younger people,” Cerussi said in a statement. “While a young person may want a car with a high-quality sound system or a built-in navigation system, cars for elderly individuals should focus on keeping these people safe as they take the road. This information will prove useful to older drivers and their families.”

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Facebook: More than just a Social Network


Besides Google, Facebook is probably one of the most visited sites on the Internet. With billions of users worldwide, this social network is the go-to place for business networking, long-lost friend finding, or simply a way to stay in touch.

A recent article published by HuffPost50 reported on a research study that “suggests that learning to use Facebook may have an additional benefit for adults over 65: a sharpening of mental abilities.” Janelle Wohltmann, a graduate student from the University of Arizona department of Psychology, decided to see what would happen if she taught older adults who had never used the online social site before how to use it.

Her goal was to see if she “could give a boost to their cognitive performance and make them feel more socially connected,” the article says. After compiling an age group of 68- to 91-year-olds she divided them into study groups that were each assigned different tasks including daily posting on Facebook, privately posting on an online diary site called A third group was placed on a “wait list” for Facebook training that was never completed.

Before using any of the new technologies, each participant completed a series of questionnaires and neuropsychological tests that would measure social variables: such as their level of loneliness, social support and cognitive abilities. Each assessment was performed again at the end of the study, eight weeks later.

“In the follow-ups, those who had learned to use Facebook performed about 25 per cent better than they did at the start of the study on tasks aimed at measuring various mental abilities,” reported HuffPost.

So if you haven’t started using Facebook, maybe you should give it a try. You can stay in touch with family and friends, play games and join Facebook discussion groups/pages, challenging yourself cognitively. If you are wondering where to start, and what a community or business page looks like, come and check out PointerWare’s page. We look forward to connecting with you!

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The Case Against Living Solo

Lonely Senior

It turns out that one might not be the loneliest number after all. The number of people worldwide who live alone has risen dramatically. In 1951, single dwellers made up a little more than 7% of the households in Canada. Today that number is 27.6%. The trend to living solo is found in the United States and Europe as well.

Is living alone good (or bad) for us? It depends who you ask. Eric Klinenberg, author of Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, sees it as a natural progression given that marriage is no longer considered the definitive sign of reaching adulthood. And, he points out; living alone isn’t the same thing as social isolation. He points out that the “communications revolution” allows someone to enjoy a healthy social life without face-to-face interaction.

But, and it’s a big but, that’s only true if they have the ability to take advantage of the internet. For the elderly, frail or poor, living solo isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. As a recent article in the Globe and Mail points out, “. . . research has found that lack of social connection can pose significant health risks, especially among older populations. Loneliness has been linked to higher stress levels and blood pressure, poorer sleep and an increased chance of depression and Alzheimer’s disease.”

Getting seniors online and “social” isn’t just a nice idea, it’s an imperative.

– Posted by Karen

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Seniors Helping Seniors

A new resource is out for caregivers that could help them better understand the dynamics of caregiving and aging in today’s society.

Seniors Helping Seniors, a Colorado organization that helps match caregivers with seniors in need of in-home assistance, has introduced a new blog that focuses on a variety of topics of interest to seniors and the caregiving community. It will encompass topics such as healthcare, safety, care at home, technology, senior programs, hobbies and more.

“Seniors Helping Seniors has been providing caring services for seniors and by seniors for over 20 years and we really want to help give back to the caregiving community,” said franchise owner of Seniors Helping Seniors, Linda Gabel.

“At Seniors Helping Seniors of northern Colorado, we know providing care at home can be challenging as well as rewarding. We developed our blog as a source of news and information for the caregiving community in northern Colorado.”

This forum is a great benefit to aging adults and caregivers who can refer to the site for ideas and tips for daily living for seniors. As an added bonus, it encourages older generations to browse the Internet and stay in-the-know with the latest trends and topics that have to do with aging.  Check it out!

– Posted by Megan

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