My 78 year old father is getting an iPad. What are the best apps for him?
September 22, 2011 5:29 AM   Subscribe

My father is 78 and is housebound after 16 years of suffering from the after-effects of several strokes. I showed him my iPad and he was entranced so we are going to get him a top of the line iPad. What are the best apps that we can put on the iPad for him?

Although he was always a gadget man and had embraced computers from the mid-70's since his strokes he's not been particularly interested in anything new.

Please recommend apps that are suited to a man who has impaired motor control and who is interested in classical music, World War II documentaries, science fiction (old school - hard, not cyber), solitaire card games, classical music, Patrick O'Brien, John Denver, Australian History 1920 to 1970, geneology, and that kind of thing.
posted by h00py to Technology (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Not on your list, but most guys that age take an interest in the weather. My-Cast Weather Radar is one that our beloved local meteorologist recommends.
posted by lakeroon at 5:41 AM on September 22, 2011

For somebody generally interested in history, the Life Magazine app has a lot of great photos.
posted by yankeefog at 5:47 AM on September 22, 2011

Response by poster: Oh, he's in Queensland, Australia, by the way.
posted by h00py at 5:52 AM on September 22, 2011

If he gets Stanza for iPad, he should be able to browse through hundreds of free 'Golden Age' SF classics. Check out the 'Get Books' section and pop in any SF author writing before about 1960 I think.
posted by Happy Dave at 6:10 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

ZITE! I love that one - like a nifty newsmagazine and you can completely craft it to your interests. :) I love my iPad to death.
posted by Mysticalchick at 6:24 AM on September 22, 2011

I love Flipbook...
posted by HuronBob at 6:38 AM on September 22, 2011

If he's house-bound, no need to spend extra for the 3G version... Also take into consideration whether the extra storage memory would be useful to him, or if the money would be better spent on content subscription services.
posted by mmdei at 6:51 AM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

If he's interested in classical music, you might consider getting him a subscription to Naxos Music Library (20 USD/year, at least where I am) and install the Naxos app on the iPad.
posted by Johnny Assay at 6:59 AM on September 22, 2011

You don't mention how willing your father would be to pay for the content, but for books, the Kindle App would seem obvious. For TV, I believe the BBC iPlayer is coming to Australia some time soon, and I presume there are also home grown alternatives.
posted by oclipa at 7:00 AM on September 22, 2011

Response by poster: He's going to be selling his scooter that he can't get around on anymore and all the proceeds will go towards the ipad (about AU$1800) so yes, he'll be happy to pay for things.
posted by h00py at 7:08 AM on September 22, 2011

The National Film Board of Canada has a very nice app with most or all of the movies available. Documentaries aplenty.

There are piles of free solitaire and other puzzle (which do not require fine motor control) apps, so he should feel happy to add and remove them as he wishes. Many paid solitaire apps have dozens of games, and 1 or 2 in the free version, so you can test before you try.
posted by jeather at 7:34 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Gah, my iPad ate my detailed answer!

Tell him not to use it for long, thoughtful Metafilter answers.

So, a briefer version, without hyperlinks.

Following up on Happy Dave:

- You can browse through all the public domain SF in Project Gutenberg, and more besides - most of it Golden Age short stories - in the Feedbooks catalogue that's included with Stanza. You want the Public Domain section of Feedbooks, and then there's a Categories list on the left-hand side, with Science Fiction near the top.

- The Baen Free Library is another good source of science fiction. Plenty of the books won't be to his taste, but some probably will be. You can add it as another Stanza catalogue, under Get Books -> Shared. If you have any trouble finding out how to do that, ask me.

- Baen will also sell you e-books, through Webscriptions. They're DRM-free and cheaper than a paperback, and, unlike Amazon with their very expensive international Kindle store, Baen don't care where you live.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 7:35 AM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Uzu and bloom are mesmerizing and fun because they respond (with color and color+sound respectively) to fingertips touching the screen. Everyone I know who has played with them love them, from my husband to my mom to my 6 month old nephew.
posted by HMSSM at 8:16 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'd suggest looking at ATmac or AssistiveWare for ways to help use the iPad if his motor issues extend to his hands or vision.

Maybe this goes without saying, but just in case-
Make sure to budget enough time to be there when he's first playing with the iPad. There are a couple things that are not hard once you know them, but drove my less tech-savvy friends (and for that matter, my own geeky self) nuts until I figured them out. Examples:

-The #$%#$ auto-correct. If he's going to be typing or emailing anything I suggest just turning it off. Better a typo than the gibberish it produces. By the way, I believe you can make the onscreen keyboard bigger in settings if needed.

-No arrow keys! When you tap, you can only place the cursor at the beginning or end of a word. You must hold down your finger until the magnifying glass comes up and even then dragging it ot the right spot is tricky. On the same subject, holding your finger on many of the keyboard keys gives you more options, like the apostrophe on the comma key.

-Getting around the different screens on the appstore. Sounds easy, is easy, but not always intutitive to the uninitiated.

On your original question- I haven't played with it myself, but heard the World History Atlas from was fun. There are a ton of free solitaire apps too, just search the store.
posted by Wretch729 at 9:45 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

How about some of the classic games? There are a lot of good chess programs -- Shredder and iChess Pro among them. There is one excellent backgammon game for the ipad -- Backgammon NJ HD -- which can play at a very competitive level (I guess programmers have focused on chess AI to the detriment of backgammon). I don't know bridge, but have heard that iBridgeBaron is supposed to be good.
posted by rtimmel at 9:50 AM on September 22, 2011

Support your local Austalian developers and get ProCreate. It's the best and most intuitive painting app (no fussy hotspot menus).
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:29 AM on September 22, 2011

In terms of Patrick O'Brian, the good news is that you can get wonderful recordings (by Patrick Tull, accept no substitutions as narrator) on of most of the books. Audible will download the books (get the "enhanced" format) straight into any Itunes, meaning you can easily listen on the Ipad.

I also think he might like Tall Ships - Age of Sail, a rather cool game for people who would like to conduct some naval combat circa 1805 on their Ipad.
posted by bearwife at 11:51 AM on September 22, 2011

Also, can he type? A bluetooth keyboard is a boon for those of us not so crazy about using the Ipad screen keyboard. The Dragon dictation app is a good one for non-typers.
posted by bearwife at 11:55 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

classical music, World War II documentaries, science fiction (old school - hard, not cyber), solitaire card games, classical music, Patrick O'Brien, John Denver, Australian History 1920 to 1970, geneology, and that kind of thing.

More ideas, by topic:

Re classical music: Classical Music I and II, both very well rated apps. Also Classical Music Radio. And Bach Violin Sonatas and Partitas lite. All are free apps.

Re World War II documentaries: there are lots of apps involving WWII, including some fun WWII trivia games, as well as multiple apps with pictures and information about e.g., WWII aircraft. For actual documentaries, I'd be looking at apps that play video like the HBO or YouTube or Hulu apps, assuming they work in Australia. Best: find an Australian source, then look for their app.

Most popular and highest rated solitaire apps are Solitaire, by MobilityWare, along with the same-named app by Byterun and Spider Solitaire Free by MobilityWare.

Re geneology, you will want to look at Reunion for Ipad and GedView.

I struck out on finding John Denver and Australian History 1920 to 1970 apps, but the Ipad browser will bring your dad the internet and that has plenty on both topics.

Wish my Dad were alive so I could give him this great gift. His interests overlapped your dad's in many respects.
posted by bearwife at 3:37 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Star Walk is what convinced my similarly-aged stepfather to get an iPhone.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:51 PM on September 24, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you all for your excellent answers. Hopefully we'll be getting the iPad for him soon. Unfortunately he's been falling over a lot recently and is becoming increasingly frail in many ways so he will be going into a nursing home very soon. This is very difficult for everyone involved, as you can probably imagine. If I can load his iPad up with the most intuitive apps and set things in order to make his whole experience as easy as possible then I'm sure that he'll have at least something to enjoy. Your suggestions are excellent.
posted by h00py at 7:21 AM on October 25, 2011

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