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Passport to the digital world

iPad users cite portability, ease of use as device’s top benefits

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July 21st, 2014
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When Apple introduced its first iPad in April 2010, AARP did a field test at Greenspring, an Erickson Living community in Springfield, Va., to determine if the iPad held senior appeal.

The reviews were mixed. Some residents preferred the devices they already owned—iPhones, iTouches, Kindles, laptops, and desktop computers. Others liked the size of the iPad’s touch screen and its portability.

Now, five generations of iPads later, that ambivalence is gone. Seniors are embracing the iPad at a record pace, making it one of the most popular devices among the 65-plus crowd.

Monthly meetings

At Trace, the Erickson Living community in West Houston, iPad users meet monthly to share useful applications and help each other with troubleshooting.

“We had a Mac users club that met for several years, but as more and more residents got iPads, the club evolved into the iPad users group,” says resident Barbara Hulyk, who currently heads the iPad club.

Attendance varies from week to week, but Barbara says certain holidays cause a spike in attendance.

“We tend to see an upsurge after Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Christmas,” she says. “Whenever anyone gets a fancy new present, we’re the club to join.”

Easy to take along

Joe and Ina Nowicki joined the iPad users club after their two daughters gave Joe an iPad for Father’s Day 2013. 

Joe, a retired civil engineer, says computers have come a long way since his working years.

“Computers used to be huge, bulky machines,” he says. “Now I can take the iPad with me wherever I go.”

Joe says the iPad’s portability appeals to him most. He has digital subscriptions to The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Time magazine, which he downloads using the Wi-Fi in his apartment each morning.

“I can read the newspapers wherever I go,” says Joe. “It’s convenient to have them all on one device.”

Favorite apps

Joyce Jackson received an iPad from her husband David for her birthday last year. The couple already had two laptops in their apartment at Eagle’s Trace, but it didn’t take long for Joyce to warm up to the iPad.

“There’s so much you can do with an iPad,” she says. “I download books, I check email and the weather, I use the Flipboard app to scan headlines, and I have a few games I like to play.”

Joyce also stays on top of her health using the iHealth application on her iPad. She checks her blood pressure daily using a wireless blood pressure cuff. The reading is transmitted via Bluetooth to her iPad. When she goes to the doctor, she prints off her log and hands it to the cardiologist.

“My cardiologist was impressed I had a digital record of my blood pressure readings,” says Joyce. “I think it’s a surprise to some people when seniors embrace technology.”

Cross-generational appeal

Barbara says the iPad appeals to all generations. 

“I was recently sharing apps with my nine-year-old great-granddaughter,” says Barbara. “She was showing me some of her favorite games, and I was showing her mine. There’s just so much you can do on an iPad.”

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