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Setting up an iPad for a senior

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ipad for seniors
  • A few tweaks can make all the difference when setting up an iPad for a senior
  • Changing the text size, cleaning up the homescreen and setting up some contacts makes a huge difference

Be sure to also check out our guide to the best iPad accessories for seniors.

How to set up an iPad for a senior
Erase and update your device
Choose your apps
Set up contacts
Accessibility settings
Text size
Home Screen setup
Declutter the dock
Set up family sharing
The best accessories
Charging

Apple’s iPad is (if you can afford it) the best choice for keeping in touch with elderly and untechnical friends and relatives, and there are some simple tips and tricks to setting up an iPad for a senior to make it simple to use.

The iPad is easy to use, has a vast range of apps available and boasts great battery life – along with digital assistant capabilities through Apple’s Siri.

We think Apple’s new 10.2 inch iPad is the best for seniors – read more about why here.

This makes it the perfect device for seniors and anyone who struggles with technology (although there are cheaper alternatives – see here for other options).

If you can, set it it all up beforehand for the your user, even if that means getting it delivered to you, then sending it on once setup is complete.

We’ve also got a guide to setting up an iPhone for a senior, which may be a more affordable option (especially as you probably have older phones lying around). However, the bigger screen of an iPad is often worth paying the extra for.

If you are reusing an old device, there are some limitations – for instance, group FaceTime video is not supported in older devices including anything earlier than the iPhone 6s, iPad Pro or later, iPad Air 2 or later, iPad mini 4 or later, iPad (5th generation) or later, or iPod touch (7th generation). There’s more information on that here (and some earlier models can join group calls, but only using audio)

ERASE AND UPDATE YOUR DEVICE

The instructions here all relate to the latest version of Apple’s iPad software, known as iPad OS 14so make sure you update the iPad to this. You’ll be getting all the latest security updates and enhancements as well.

Updating is simple, go to Settings > General, then tap software update, and download and install. If you need more help, Apple has an easy to understand guide.

If you’re still struggling, Wikihow has a good guide with easy to follow pictures here.

If you’re reusing an older iPad or iPhone, they also have a guide to wiping it clean of all your own data and settings so you can start with a fresh ‘out of the box’ iPad.

If you hit any problems, AppleInsider has a decent video tutorial explaining all this, and some of the pitfalls here.

It may also be worth disabling the passcode on the iPad, as this can add a layer of complexity for users – instructions for doing that are here.

CHOOSE YOUR APPS

Be really careful what you download – usually a game or two (Candy Crush or Words With Friends are both hugely popular), a banking app and a videoconferencing app (FaceTime is usually the best option as it’s so simple, and you don’t need to download anything else) and some entertainment apps for TV and films such as Netflix are a good start. 

Video and music streaming apps are also a must – and it’s worth taking the time to to set them up with favourite stations, shows and movies.

Messaging is a tricky one, and really depends on the person. Even email can be a step too far for many people – perhaps suggest just using iMessage instead. That said, WhatsApp is very popular, and if you set up a family group, really simple to use.

It’s also worth investigating streaming fitness apps to keep people active. CNET has a good roundup of them here.

The NHS (Britain’s National Health Service) is a goldmine of information and even has its own virtual workouts here. It’s also got a good guide to fitness for seniors here. Healthline also has some senior workouts here.

The National Institutes of Aging in the US also has some great resources, including online workout videos, here.

Grocery shopping is another great use of a tablet at the moment, and you can download and set it up with favourite items already in the app.

Medical apps are also particularly useful, and in particular something like a medication reminder app. Healthline has a list of the best ones here.

If you’re in the UK, then Learn My Way has some great courses for staying healthy online.

SET UP CONTACTS

Setting up a small number of contacts such as close family and friends is a good idea if you want to set up an iPad for seniors.

It’s also worth calling/messaging each of them, so that when the app is opened, there are messages ready and waiting to restart the conversation.

In iMessage, it’s also worth enabling the Show Contact Photos option so that everyone’s faces in Messages are shown.

USE THE ACCESSIBILITY SETTINGS

Apple has built a whole host of accessibility settings into the iPad, and you can tweak them depending on the needs of the user.

These range from everything from making the text size larger, to voice control.

You can invert colors, reduce white point, enable grayscale, or choose from a range of color filters to support different forms of color blindness or other vision challenges.

Apple has a great, easy to understand overview of all these features, and how to set them up.

To get to the settings, go into the Settings menu on the iPad, the Accessibility.

TWEAK THE TEXT SIZE

The one tweak you’ll almost certainly want to use to set up an iPad for seniors is Display and Text Size, which you can find in the accessibility menu.

There are several options here, from making all the text bold, to making text larger across the system. This is hugely useful, and it’s even worth (if possible) going throughb a few different sizes with your user to find the best one.

If reading the text is still a problem, there are a host of other features you can try, from the built in screen magnifier (Zoom in the accessibility menu) to Speak Screen, which you can use to read your email, iMessages, web pages, and books. 

To use this, turn on Speak Screen and swipe down from the top of the screen with two fingers, or just tell Siri to Speak Screen and have all the content on the page read back to you.

If that’s not enough, VoiceOver is a gesture-based screen reader that Apple has developed to let people use an iPad if they can’t see the screen at all. 

For more details, Apple has an easy to understand guide.

REARRANGE THE HOME SCREEN

Once you’ve set up the accessibility features and downloaded the apps you need, rearranging the apps on the home screen to keep them to a minimum is critical to set up an iPad for seniors-  otherwise it can be too overwhelming to know what to press. 

If you’re not sure how to move apps, Apple has a good guide here.

Move everything you don’t need into a folder and move it to the second screen of the homepage to hide it.

On the homescreen, rename the apps to make them simpler if you need to.

Also make sure the most used apps are in the dock so they’re easily accesible.

DECLUTTER THE DOCK

The dock at the bottom of the screen displays suggested and recent apps along with those that you put there yourself. To make life simpler when you set up an iPad for seniors, disabling the feature is a good idea. Here’s how:

  1. Open the Settings
  2. Tap Multitasking & Dock.
  3. Turn off the toggle for Show Suggested and Recent Apps from green to white.

SET UP FAMILY SHARING

Apple’s Family Sharing can be a godsend, making it easy for up to six family members to share App Store purchases and Apple subscriptions, including an iCloud storage plan without having to share an Apple ID. You can also set up permissions remotely with Screen Time, and approve spending and downloads.

Apple’s own guide to using it is great, read it here – and predictably they’ve even made a video to explain it.

ACCESSORIES

A stylus can often be a great add on for users who aren’t used to a touchscreen or struggle with one.

While the Apple Pencil is pretty pricey at $99 (and that’s the cheapest version), a lower cost alternative might be worth a look. The Logitech Crayon is a particularly good alternative – it’s a bit thicker and bulkier, making it easier to hold.

It may well also be worth investing in a case and a stand – while iPads are fairly sturdy, they probably will get dropped/knocked over a little.

Amazon has a decent stand that’s really cheap -you can grab one here.

Shop iPad cases with Free Shipping at OtterBox.com!

CHARGING

It’s worth setting up charging points, complete with long cables, not only next to the bed but next to a favourite chair.

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