The Senior List has long touted the new e-readers and tablets as being increasingly “Senior Friendly”. Now a small study out of Johannes Gutenberg University (Mainz, Germany) has shown some results that add some science to this notion. It appears that backlighting from tablets may make it easier for seniors to read on these devices vs. traditional printed materials. In the study, seniors (age 60-77) AND their younger counterparts (age 21-34) overwhelmingly preferred traditional books over the electronic versions. But when the researchers looked at the scientific evidence (in this case combined EEG and eye-tracking measures) they noticed some contrary clues worth noting.
Among the older adults, digital measures “showed shorter mean fixation durations and lower EEG theta band voltage density – known to covary with memory encoding and retrieval – for the older adults when reading from a tablet computer in comparison to the other two devices.” In layman’s terms… The back-lighting from the iPad allowed the older adults to read faster, and comprehend more. This is quite interesting indeed, considering the built-in bias toward traditional printed materials. More scientific data is probably warranted, but this certainly raises some eyebrows.
“In the rapidly changing circumstances of our increasingly digital world, reading is also becoming an increasingly digital experience: electronic books (e-books) are now outselling print books in the United States and the United Kingdom.” Kretzschmar, Pleimling, Hosemann, Füssel, & Bornkessel-Schlesewsky, et al.
Could tablets become mainstream devices or “must haves” for aging adults? Some would argue (including us) this evolution/revolution is already happening. Emarketer.com predicts that the highest growth rates among tablet users will come from users under 12 (huh?) and adults age 65+. With an intuitive user interface (UI), video conferencing capabilities, multi-media at the fingertips, and email… Tablet growth and new applications (apps) will push even more tablets in the hands of aging adults.