Make an Android tablet elder-friendly for my grandma
October 16, 2014 12:14 PM   Subscribe

Family members have gotten an Android tablet for my 97-year-old grandmother. Please suggest some ways to make the tablet as friendly and easy to use as possible for someone who has computer experience, but who can be pessimistic about learning new things and can get frustrated with people trying to teach her. We're particularly interested in tablet settings and also methods for instructing her in its use, but also open to hearing about tutorials or apps that might make her experience smoother. I'm overseas, so I'll be passing along ideas to my dad.

My grandmother has been using a Windows desktop for email, web browsing, and some word-processing for many years, but lately it's been getting difficult for her to sit at the computer desk for very long. Her eyesight is not great, but she reads large-print books and has been able to see her monitor well enough by leaning in close. Her hand coordination can be a bit unsteady and she will accidentally click or double-click on things, usually without realizing that she has done so. Short-term memory is getting worse and changes to familiar things like her email client can throw her for a loop.

She has previously played with a piano keyboard app on an iPad and was quite absorbed by it. We think she'd like to do more of that kind of thing, as well as her usual computing activities. There will also be a bunch of family photos on the SD card for her to browse.

The tablet is a Lenovo IdeaTab A10-70 (aka A7600-F) running Android 4.4.2 (Kit Kat). From what I can tell, it doesn't have a physical HOME button, only soft keys.

We're especially interested in settings or learning techniques to do the following:

•Setting the virtual keyboard to resemble a physical keyboard as much as possible (e.g. not hiding punctuation)
•Making it easy to use her Gmail account, like (importantly) very simple ways to choose contacts for new messages, also a very basic app that doesn't allow her to accidentally swipe-to-delete emails
•Making the interface - icons and text - large enough for her to see easily.
•An easy way to find and browse photos, perhaps also using a slideshow
•A browser that supports an easy and intuitive way to access bookmarks and to enter search terms
•Avoiding accidentally launching apps or getting confused by accidentally pressing the menu soft key when holding the tablet (maybe using a stylus? Some kind of lap desk that the tablet can be attached to so she doesn't have to grip it?)
•General de-cluttering and getting confusing things out of sight
•Ways to ease her into it without causing her to feel pressured or getting frustrated and giving up
posted by theory to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Big Launcher is a simplified, large icon interface for most Android devices.
Big Buttons Keyboard is good for accessibility but still separates punctuation/numbers and letters into two different screens. Another keyboard option might be Thumb Keyboard which is customizable.
posted by qi at 12:55 PM on October 16, 2014

When I had an Android, my favorite browser was Dolphin. I tried several of them and most of them sucked in some way. Life got a lot better when I found Dolphin.

Also, gmail has an Android app. My tablet came with some kind of built-in email app that accessed my gmail account, but I hated it. I far preferred the gmail app.
posted by Michele in California at 1:02 PM on October 16, 2014

Best answer: Are you adverse to getting hardware? I have a Logitech bluetooth keyboard that I use on my Nexus occasionally when I need to take lengthy notes, or type out an extended email. It's about the same size as a regular keyboard, and has satisfying key action.

My mom recently switched from a Dell netbook to an Acer tablet, and she uses a stylus, which helps her with misclicks. She also has a lap desk that she can rest her hands on when using the machine in bed. This would be especially helpful if your grandmother ended up going with a physical keyboard accessory.

Android has built-in widgets that will place a nice little image slideshow on one of the front screens. Tapping on an image will then take you into its location in the gallery.

Getting a cover might also help. On my nexus I got a Poetic cover. I can fold the flaps down and use this as a kickstand if I need to. I can fold them another way and create a handle if I'm using the tablet as an e-reader. It also serves as protection. Poetic is just one brand, but a cover would probably make the machine more user friendly, and your grandmother could pick out a color she likes, which would also probably serve to endear her to it.

I would say that the best way to do this, if possible, would be to have someone sit down with her (maybe with coffee or tea or some sort of food she likes) and talk her through what she wants to do with the device. They can help her set up the various pages, and depending on their relationship they can explain as they go (from teaching computers as a librarian, I know that often sons and daughters do not make good or patient teachers). Do you have a tech savvy niece or nephew? That might be a really good solution. Regardless, you want to get her tablet set up how she likes, and give her the basic tools to fix it whenever Google (inevitably) shifts stuff around on her.

It's happened several times to my mom, where there's been a major update to some app which has taken it off of her homescreen, or a widget has changed size and disappeared without warning. I sat down with her and showed her how to find stuff using the app list, and she seems much happier with her tablet since then.

I've found that this is often about framing. If technology is introduced by a patient person who's trying to help, then the learner is much more open and enthusiastic. If it's introduced by a person who's yelling and mad that the learner doesn't know basic stuff, then the learner tends to be anxious and fearful about using the device. If there's no introduction at all, then the learner will probably just stick with what they're familiar with.
posted by codacorolla at 1:13 PM on October 16, 2014

FYI the Android gmail app swipes to archive. No mistakenly deleted email! It's also a very easy app to use with respect to finding the contacts she wants.

You mentioned she reads large print books. The Kindle app is wonderful for reading! Set the background to something she's comfortable with and zoom out to the max and every book is a large print book!

Good luck, and I hope your grandmother loves her tablet!
posted by danabanana at 2:05 PM on October 16, 2014

Best answer: the hacker's keyboard is a full android keyboard with numbers, punctuation and everything identical to a keyboard (minus the numeric keypad on the far right of desktop keyboards)
posted by noloveforned at 12:14 PM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

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