Fortunately, technology can be made easy for seniors with tools that make the internet and other devices accessible for every user. Whether you’re using technology to check email, chat with friends on social media, or surf the web, technology for seniors can be made easy.
Making technology easy for seniors starts with getting comfortable. For your computer desk, find an ergonomic chair that will support your back. You may also want to use a keyboard that has larger type on the keys and provides support for your wrists. If you have a laptop, adding a mouse via USB cable will offer you more precision and less strain on your wrists and fingers than using a trackpad. If you like, you can even get a stand to prop up your tablet at a comfortable angle, so you don’t have to hold it in your hands for long periods of time.
Physical and motor support
As we age, it can become much more difficult to use a mouse, keyboard, trackpad, or smartphone. Fortunately, there are options that can make devices much easier to use with limited mobility or dexterity. Voice control can help, allowing you to control your phone, tablet, or computer by speaking commands. Here are some accessibility features to look for on your phone, computer, or tablet:
- Speak to text: Dictate to your device and then edit what was written, an essential feature for composing text messages and emails.
- Hands-free navigation: Open apps and then navigate through them by giving voice commands.
- Ditch the mouse or touchscreen: Use a keyboard to navigate on smaller devices by using Bluetooth to connect it to your tablet without a cord. You can also set up computers and laptops so you can navigate with keyboard commands.
As vision declines, small text on smartphone and tablet screens becomes more difficult to read. Even with reading glasses, screens and other displays can be hard to see, especially given that the way we perceive colors also changes as we age. Seniors need displays that increase the distinction between colors, also known as a contrast ratio. Keep an eye out for these accessibility features for vision impairment:
- Text and display size, zoom: Make everything bigger and easier to see by increasing the size of the text on your screen and the display. You can even make your cursor bigger! Some devices allow you to hover over text with a mouse, which immediately enlarges it.
- Change your display settings: Increase the contrast of your device displays, which will make it easier to read and distinguish images. You can even invert display colors or use filters so you can see your screen exactly as you want to.
- Use a screen reader: All major devices include software that can read the text on the screen out loud. Set up the screen reader on your device and it will read anything on the screen to you — including emails and social media posts —and read out descriptions of what is pictured there.
- For devices with cameras, you can often use them to magnify object in your everyday life. Simply point and look.
Approximately one-third of all seniors will experience some degree of hearing loss as they age. Losing hearing can be isolating for seniors, especially if it causes communication or understanding to break down. Captions, transcripts, and visual alerts can be essential for older technology users to make sure they remain a part of the conversation. Check device settings for these accessibility features for hearing loss or impairment:
- Real-time text: Read what a friend or family member said and type back a response. Many devices are also able to create transcripts of conversations you have, so you can look back on them later.
- Closed captioning: Automatically get subtitles for everything you watch, in real-time.
- Mono-audio: If you have hearing loss in one ear, you can adjust the speakers of your device to play the same thing out of both speakers, so you never miss a beat.
- Some hearing aids are optimized to work with Apple and Android devices to improve sound quality as you chat on the phone or watch TV.
Accessibility matters, in large part because it can help seniors age in place and live more independently. Plus, as our world increasingly relies on technology, knowing how to use accessibility features on phones, tablets, and computers is key for seniors who want to stay connected with family and friends.
To get started with using the accessibility tools on your device, review the user guides published by Apple, Android, Microsoft, Amazon Fire, and other technology creators to target specific accessibility features available. They will walk you through setting up these features on different devices, step by step.
At CenturyLink, we think it’s important to connect seniors to technology. We put together a guide on using the internet for seniors to empower our older-and-wiser users to use the web. And it’s also why we offer Lifeline to help make communications services more affordable for lower-income or fixed-income consumers, including retirees.