Sunday, April 24, 2011

Elder Pad update: My mother's iPad continued

This post updates a prior article: Grandma's iPad - A user guide and review.

My son and I just spent a few days with my elderly parents. My mother's macular degeneration and rheumatoid arthritis continue their slow inexorable progress.  She is no longer able to use her Mac Mini, it's now primarily a sync service for her iPod, an image server, and perhaps a facetime connector [2][3].

She remains thrilled with her iPad, despite a need for a skill refresher [1]. I've just completed the OS 4 update; the added complexity of multitasking was offset by improved usability features we really wanted. Here's what I learned ...

  • The big accessibility news with iOS 4 is really large font support for Mail (!), Contacts, and Notes. It's not perfect -- only parts of the UI are updated, but it's particularly well done with Mail. Mail messages now support scaling with finger gestures -- I'm pretty sure that's new.
  • She never did get the hang of Voice Over and the triple tap to toggle VoiceOver. So we've switched to using the three finger double tap and three finger zoomed-image-scroll. It's probably my imagination, but it seems more readable than it once was. The UI for adjusting the zoom level is a bit occult -- triple double tap but hold on the 2nd tap and scroll 3 fingers up/down. She seems ok withe the adjustment I set.
  • I turned scroll lock on, fixing it in landscape view. She liked the orientation swap -- but it introduces complexity. In some cases UIs change. I think a single UI set will help.
  • I'm experimenting with putting some TV show episodes on her iPad.
  • I wish I could turn off the rearrange / wiggling feature. It's a usability pain in the ass.
  • Whatever happened to Retina-display friendly apps that were supposed to scale so well? sucks at double res an iPad and I thought it was retina display friendly.

These are the apps she uses -- they're all on Page 1. I've found very few third party apps worthwhile for her:

  • Mail
  • iPod
  • Photos
  • WeatherHD
  • iBooks: still not using much, but maybe someday.
  • Web page links saved as home screen icons (All support pinch/zoom)
    • BBC International
    • Montreal Gazette
    • Home page I made for her: links to family blog, British Royal Family news
    • Facebook: Most marginal web environment - way too complex
  • Friendly: New. Not sure it's worthwhile. Does have scalable fonts, but wish I could turn off many of the features. Too many places to get lost.
  • Checkers iPad (Paid app)
  • Real Solitaire HD (Paid app, no ads)
  • Virtuoso: 3 finger double tap can be tricky here.
  • Videos: Until today I didn't realize that's where iTunes purchased TV shows and movies go. More useable than the iPod app.

These are embedded apps she doesn't use (all on page 2): Safari (uses via the web page links), App Store, iTunes, Game Center, Calendar, Maps, YouTube.

I'd love to buy more elder-friendly apps for her, but this is a largely untapped market [4]. So far Apple does the best, and even their best isn't so great.

[1] If she lived closer to me I'm sure she'd be a wizard at it, but she tends to lose skills since I'm not around to reinforce them.
[2] Upgrading to 10.6, which required a drive upgrade, cost us the mini's optical drive. Tip: If you take a apart a used Mini, keep the #$$$ dust out of the exposed drive slot.
[3] I've set Facetime to autoanswer, She has a lovely Logitech Pro webcam. We'll see how well this works, too early to report on.
[4] A tough market to reach. No interest to advertisers, has trouble buying software/apps, tends to have a limited lifespan as an active user. (A minimally-demented 75 yo geek is not in this market.)

See also:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My 93 yo mother also has Macular Degeneration. Her traditional optical magnifying reader is of limited use as her field of vision diminishes. I would like to use an iPad or similar solution so remote family and friends can read mail for her, and also help read thermostats, microwave settings, canned food labels, etc., etc.

Her vision is so poor that we will need to do almost everything remotely. A voice initiated dial from her end would be a good feature, but once in a call, we would need to do as much as possible, e.g. select the rear camera vs. the front camera.

Any suggestions/resources on using Face Time or similar apps for this purpose would be appreciated.