Buying technology for seniors this holiday season

Seniors aren’t as wary of technology as some might think. In April, the Pew Internet and American Life Project reported that more than half of the 65 and over population were online and using email. The number is growing as seniors see the advantages of technology, from convenience to safety benefits. And that’s good news for kids and grandkids in desperate need of great gift ideas.

Help the seniors in your life manage more from the comfort of their home. A new laptop or tablet can be a valuable tool for communicating with loved ones, managing finances and even taking care of some shopping. More than the gift itself, they’ll appreciate the time you take to show them the ropes with a video chat program or online bill pay services, not to mention getting them connected with family and friends on social media.

If you’re in the market for a portable computer, there are numerous options. An all-purpose laptop typically offers a larger screen, which can be helpful if eyesight is an issue. At 4.5 to 8 pounds, they are ideal for the home, but can be carried to the corner coffee shop without much hassle. The Acer Aspire offers a 15.6-inch screen, great for viewing videos and images, and weighs less than 6 pounds.

Netbooks are smaller and more lightweight, good for some simple Web browsing and email, but often not robust enough to handle streaming video or multiple applications running simultaneously. Asus offers some high quality options, which are generally more budget-friendly than a laptop.

Tablets have taken the market by storm, and new devices are being designed with seniors in mind. The Claris Companion blends in with a home’s decor, featuring a bamboo bezel, a stand and speakers built into the front. The 10-inch screen has big buttons, large text and a simple user interface, and it accommodates alerts set up by the senior or family to keep abreast of medication or other critical tasks.

Provide seniors – and yourself – with the gift of a cellphone and peace of mind. Even if they don’t text or surf the Internet, your loved ones can benefit from having a convenient way to call for help in an emergency. Consumer Cellular carries senior-friendly phones, like the Doro PhoneEasy 618, with large and backlit buttons and hearing aid compatibility. No contract phone service with flexible plans means paying only as much as they use the phone.

Of course, some seniors may be ready for smartphone features at their fingertips, including powerful cameras for capturing memories of the grandchildren. As with other products, consider a device with a larger screen size to avoid eye strain. Also, keep the interface simple. Apple products tend to be fairly intuitive, so an iPhone may be a contender. The LG Escape from Consumer Cellular is another option, particularly if you want to give a phone loaded with advanced features.

If shopping for avid readers, consider giving an e-reader and load some classics to get them started. The Amazon Kindle starts with a 6-inch screen, but larger sizes (up to 9.7 inches) are featured on certain models. Seniors can increase fonts to a comfortable size for reading, and they don’t need to spend a bundle on books as many libraries now lend e-books.

Keeping connected with parents and grandparents may be the biggest gift of all this holiday season, so don’t shy away from the gifts that can make that happen. Seniors may surprise you with their tech savvy.

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