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5 Terrific Mobile Apps for Seniors

Many people think of technology as the territory of the young, and that's too bad. Technology can benefit older adults in countless and sometimes surprising ways. For example, Speaking Exchange pairs up students learning English with English-speaking seniors, giving students conversational practice and seniors the opportunity to reach young people and help them learn skills they'll need for success.

Tablet apps can open up a new world of communication, education, and entertainment for seniors.

On the everyday level, apps for seniors abound that can make life more convenient, more fun, and safer. Though some of them must be purchased, many are free, and those that do cost money are almost always reasonably priced. Seniors may not be as enamored of their phones as their children and grandchildren, but according to a Pew Research Internet Project, older adults are adopting tablets more enthusiastically than younger adults. A tablet could be perfect for the older adult that you love, particularly if you install a handful of useful tablet apps first. Here are 5 apps for seniors that can brighten their lives in many ways.

5 Mobile Apps for Seniors

1. Skype
A UK study of people ages 60 to 95 were provided with broadband and selected tablet apps, one of which was Skype, which allows video chat. Upon learning to use it, the seniors were enthusiastic. One outdoorsman who could no longer camp due to health issues was able to virtually join and interact with a group of campers around their campfire, for example. Thomas Morton, project leader, said, “What can be surprising is just how important social connections are to cognitive and physical health. People who are socially isolated or who experience loneliness are more vulnerable to disease and decline.”

2. YouTube
YouTube is packed with entertainment including music, television shows, and documentaries, new and old. It is also full of tutorials and how-to videos on everything from exercising to using technology. In fact, there are channels specifically by and for mature adults. Additionally, YouTube has countless playlists for enjoying music of every conceivable genre. And new content is constantly being uploaded to YouTube, so there's never a problem finding something entertaining.

3. Waze

Anyone who is out and about a lot can benefit from apps that assist with parking.

Waze is a map and navigation app that crowdsources traffic condition information, and it now automatically remembers and saves where you park when you use it to get to your destination. This is tremendously helpful at large shopping malls, parking garages, and events, guiding the user right back to their car, which is especially convenient for those carrying shopping bags. And when you use Waze for parking, you help the app learn where to find parking and how much time to allow to park at that particular destination.

4. Kindle
For the senior who loves to read, the Kindle app enables them to contain an entire library of books in their tablet. And for seniors with multiple devices, the Kindle app syncs furthest page read, bookmarks, notes, and highlights across devices. Users can sample books before buying and read thousands of classics for free. It can also download eBooks carried by many local libraries. Plus, font size is adjustable, to reduce eye strain. Users can even subscribe to magazines and newspapers, or buy single issues.

5. Art Set
The regular edition of Art Set costs $1.99, and the Pro edition costs $6.99 for the iPad. Art Set allows users to draw and paint on a photo-realistic interface with tools that look like actual art tools, including virtual pens, pencils, pastels, and paints. It has pressure sensitivity so, for example, if you create an oil painting, you can get realistic texture effects. With pinch and zoom functionality, users can zoom in and add fine details, and blending tools offer nearly unlimited ways to mix and smudge color on the virtual canvas. The app is described by reviewers as intuitive and easy to learn.

Thinking of technology as only for young people is woefully short-sighted. Technology can be used by older adults to keep in touch with loved ones, remember complex medication schedules, increase social interaction, and enjoy cognitive stimuli and information that can greatly enrich quality of life. Apps for seniors can improve users' sense of autonomy, provide entertainment and education, and allow far-away loved ones to interact face to face. The time you spend setting up your older loved one with a mobile device and apps can pay off beautifully in terms of your peace of mind and better quality of life for him or her.

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