You and I may consider ourselves to be pretty tech savvy, but for many seniors and elderly people, using smartphones and tablets can be a frustrating experience. There have been plenty of attempts over the years at making devices much more senior friendly. Here’s a different approach. Rather than build a new type of tablet, a company called Oscar Senior has developed apps for both Apple iPads and Android-based tablets designed to turn the devices into dedicated, greatly simplified screens for communication, information, and entertainment.
The idea is that if you have an elderly parent or grandparent, you can take perhaps a previous generation tablet, install the Oscar Senior app, and turn it into a device that automatically enlarges text, creates large icons that are clearly understood for things like reminders, video chat, photo sharing, Facebook, the latest weather and even games. You, as the administrator, choose the apps that become part of the interface. And for the person using the tablet, there is no need to worry about doing something wrong or accidentally changing settings.
The company is celebrating its first anniversary and has grown rapidly, with users now in 75 countries around the world. Chief Marketing Officer Eliska Divoka says the person who sets up Oscar Senior can connect remotely to the tablet through a smartphone app to install new apps. Why the need for the special interface? Divoka says, “Our users are those who are not experienced with computers or technology. They want a simple and secure interface. They don’t have to worry about doing something wrong. I can set it up for my grandma. I can add contacts for her. I can add new applications for her. And she doesn’t have to worry about things like this.”
And that can all be done from the smartphone app miles away. While the interface is more or less locked onto the tablet, it isn’t difficult for the administrator to exit from Oscar Senior, so the tablet can be used for other purposes.
So how did this all come about? It started a few years back when CEO Tomas Posker moved to Silicon Valley with a previous company from his home in the Czech Republic. He says he was living the American dream but missed his grandmother back home. His first solution was to buy her a computer to communicate. You can guess how that went. Repeated phone calls to try to help her use the computer proved to be far too frustrating.
“Then I decided to use the know-how I had from the previous company for remote hardware and software access, and use it just for this purpose. And it worked!”
After a few months, he started wondering if there might be a market for his self-built Grandma communication tool. In testing it out, I’ve found it to be as easy for the senior to use as the company claims. I ran into just one mysterious glitch with the weather app showing the conditions for the wrong location. I was also curious about the name Oscar Senior. But it turns out the name Oscar was picked because it is international and doesn’t have any negative meanings.
If you want to give it a try, Oscar Senior is free for the senior to use on his or her tablet. And after a 30-day free trial, relatives or friends who want to communicate can do so just 99 cents a month or ten dollars a year. It can be found on Google Play or the Apple App Store.
Fred Fishkin is the host of the syndicated radio report “Techstination.” He has covered consumer technology for the last 25 years having worked with CBS Radio and Bloomberg Radio. He is an avid hiker, photographer, reader and is always curious about what is coming next in the world of tech. He can be reached at [email protected]