Note: This is the first in a series of articles on how major consumer electronics companies are addressing the needs of boomers and seniors.
It’s eleven o’clock at Middlebrook Farms, a senior living community in Trumbull, Conn. There’s a line for the three HP Touchsmart workstations in the library. Retired art teacher Lottie Palmer, 91, is assisted at one computer by an “ambassador” who helps her to write a story. At another computer, 84-year-old Ida Janowitz gets help scrolling through pictures of her old haunts in Austin, Texas. At the third computer, a grandmother dutifully plays Tic Tac Toe with her grandson via email. For each, the experience at Middlebrook is their first exposure to computers.
A thousand miles away, at another assisted living home in DesPlaines, Ill., residents are using HP Slate tablets.
In both locations, the software suite is provided by Connected Living. Both the tablets and the desktops are set up so residents can video chat with friends and family, a huge plus for a population often separated from loved ones by thousands of miles. The software is configured to allow users easy access to daily needs like a community calendar, email and personal stories.
Hewlett Packard is not the only computer maker to consider the needs of boomers and seniors in designing products. But it has taken the lead. Its TouchSmart 610 is probably one of the best examples.
This all-in-one computer lets the user interact with it using touch, a keyboard and mouse, and even voice. It has a 23-inch diagonal screen, which can lean back at a 65-degree angle, so you can use it like a tablet. You can start programs with the touch of a finger, or sit side by side with a grandchild to scroll through photographs. The multi-touch screen enables the user to expand text or pictures with a pinch.
But HP says this is just one of many products that consider seniors and boomers in product design.
Glenn Meyer, the engineering program manager at HP’s Accessibility & Aging Program Office, says, “We involve people with disabilities and age-related limitations in the development of accessibility guidelines and in the design and testing of our products and services, so that they are easier to use now and in the future as technology evolves.” The result is a feature set that HP believes serves the needs of people with age-related limitations. Those features include:
- Buttons and other mechanical controls that are tactilely sensitive and do not require excessive force to operate. Text and icon labels have higher contrast to support low-vision accessibility.
- Most designs include features for single-handed operation for persons with limited mobility.
- HP PCs are compatible with leading third-party assistive technology, so it is simple to add and go.
- Product documentation is available in soft copy to be used by screen readers or printed by Braille embossers.
- Some LCD monitors have a unique HP “dual-hinge” stand design that allows adjustability for individuals who use bifocal, trifocal or multi-focal lenses.
- HP Products support all Microsoft Windows accessibility features, including screen magnification, keyboard navigation, speech-to-text command and control, and color and contrast settings.