Mobile devices have opened up opportunities people could only imagine 15 years ago. But the gadgets and apps that let people access information and communicate with loved ones around the globe aren’t always intuitive, especially for people without much experience using new technology.

There are multiple companies that look to improve comprehension and ease of use with tablets, and U.K.-based company Breezie excels in this regard. By stripping devices and apps down to basics, Breezie customizes tablets for seniors based on individual’s needs, interest and aptitude. As users grow more comfortable with their devices, family members and assisted living communities can help them add new content and functionality.

“The pace at which technology evolves is much faster than the pace at which you learn after a certain age,” says Jeh Kazimi, founder of Breezie. “People assume the digital divide between generations will eventually disappear, but that’s not true. Today we are helping people learn about Facebook and Skype, but those applications will change and new ones will emerge. Even if you are digitally savvy today doesn’t guarantee you’ll be able to do everything in the future.”

The Benefits of Tablets for Seniors

What do older users want from tablets, and what does it take to make devices senior-friendly?

While nearly 60 percent of American seniors use the Internet, only 37 percent of those over age 80 get online, according to a 2014 report from the Pew Research Center. Most seniors are also missing out on mobility. Cell phones for seniors have grown in popularity, but only 18 percent use smartphones, while another 18 percent own tablets.

Companies like Breezie are working to change that, bringing seniors into the digital age by tailoring tablets to meet their unique needs. “Seniors have time on their hands and want to access content online,” says Kazimi. “But it’s frustrating when they have to call their children or grandchildren for tech support. By leveraging the smart technology and sensors that come with Samsung Galaxy tablets, we can adjust the interface and make them simpler to use.”

Kazimi explains tablets for seniors have five major benefits:

  1. Social media: Keeping in touch with friends and family

  2. Content: Accessing information for leisure, learning and emergency preparedness

  3. Commerce: Convenient online shopping and access to user reviews for informed decision making

  4. Entertainment: Games and content that promote mental engagement

  5. Health: Accessing medical information, care plans, health apps and wellness content

Kazimi notes that it’s usually the emotional driver of social media that appeals to seniors, but they quickly learn that photos of their grandchildren aren’t the only worthwhile content online. “We often forget that seniors have aspirations — things they never got to do because they were working or looking after kids,” says Kazimi. “In retirement, they have the time and mobile devices can help them do these things.”

For example, one of Kazimi’s team members met a 100-year-old woman who uses her Breezie to make videos. “Wearing my preconceived lens about what seniors do online, I assumed she was enjoying videos her family posts on Facebook. But it turns out that she always wanted to be a movie maker, so she’s interviewing people and making short films.”

There’s another subtle but critical benefit behind increasing seniors’ comfort level with new technology. Many healthcare providers now leverage mobile solutions to deliver home health services, which can seem intrusive to patients who aren’t familiar with this technology. “If you combine all the other benefits seniors get from tablets, then integrating sensors around the house to help them age in place becomes more palatable,” says Kazimi.

Simplifying Tablets for Seniors

As mobile devices becoming increasingly sophisticated, they offer options that appeal to many users. But sometimes these bells and whistles can overwhelm seniors. According to Kazimi, “When you take a tablet out of the box, there are 43 different settings you need to do to make it senior-friendly. These include the timeout on the screen, brightness, touch sensitivity, predictive text on the keyboard. There’s a ton of simplification that can be done.”

Once customers receive their new tablets, Breezie can access the device remotely to provide training and tech support. Just as importantly, family members and caregivers get remote access to help seniors install new apps, adjust settings and learn to use new functionality.

“This is where Samsung KNOX Customization becomes important,” says Kazimi. “We use it to configure the 43 settings by simply running a small script. It also lets us capture sensory data for digital profiling, provides remote access to devices and reports advanced analytics. This way, insurance providers and retirement communities who provide Breezie tablets know if residents are actually using them.”

Breezie currently has 3,400 active users between ages 63 and 104, and most are U.K.-based. But thanks to the recent launch of Breezie’s U.S. website, as well a partnership with the National Council on Aging, American seniors can get in on the fun now, too.

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Taylor Mallory Holland

Taylor Mallory Holland is a professional writer with more than 11 years of experience writing about business, technology and healthcare for both media outlets and companies. Taylor is passionate about how mobile technology can reshape the healthcare industry, providing new ways for care providers to connect with patients and streamline workflows. She stays on top of emerging trends and regularly speaks with healthcare industry leaders about the challenges they face and how they innovate using mobile technology. Follow Taylor on Twitter: @TaylorMHoll

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