iPad Ideas For Silver Surfers

The iPad might be that easy a four year-old can use it, but older owners can struggle.

For my father, who is in his late seventies, a Windows PC had become too much. The constant battle against spyware and viruses, dialogue boxes that frequently popped up asking questions he didn’t understand, and not being able to remember what a tab was, meant he needed to change the way he checked email and accessed the internet. I had previously suggested an Apple laptop (less chance of it going wrong) and then the company kindly released their iPad.

After a month of trying it out in various shops and reading numerous reviews (the old do not make decisions quickly) one was finally purchased. I had it for a few days so I could create an iTunes account and add a few apps and icons that he would find useful, then I did a half-hour teaching session and left him to it.

A few weeks on and my father is enjoying the experience. The one complaint he has so far is that there isn’t a printed guide for him to refer back to. It sounds like an unusual complaint given how simple the iPad is but the problem isn’t remembering the gestures it’s more an issue of what icon does what.

A good example is where to find the podcasts I’d downloaded for him. Most of us would know the answer: the iPod application. Unfortunately teaching someone who’s never had such technology that iPod means listening to something and iTunes doesn’t is not the easiest thing; especially when long-term memory is way better than short-term (‘they never had iPods in the war you know’).

What I’d love to see is some form of pop-up guide that runs every time the iPad is accessed, or, as much as I hated them, a Media Centre style interface would work well. ‘Do you want to listen to podcasts, watch TV or browse the internet?’ or some such. That would probably mean multi-tasking which Apple so dislike or allowing the user to customise things. As this too is something Apple shy away from I’ve resorted to a couple of sheets of paper with some pictures on; the high-tech world has had a helping hand from the old school.