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The iPad 2 Is the New PC

Why tablet computers may be the must-have devices for older Americans

Games Seniors Play

Some seniors are using the tablet for many of the same activities as their grandchildren. They like to play games, though not the video intensive shoot-'em-ups. Seniors tend to like casino games such as poker and slots. They are also partial to the "Wheel of Fortune" app.

And just like their grandchildren, they've become big fans of the iTunes store. No, they're not downloading Snoop Dog albums, but they are grabbing free podcasts of radio shows dating back to the 1930s and 1940s. Shows such as Jack Benny, Burns and Allen, Bob Hope and others. Carle tells the story of one widow who was listening to an episode of Edgar Bergen, the same episode she remembered hearing when she was 16. And retirees who've moved away from their longtime homes can use the devices to keep up with the news in their hometown newspapers or listening to hometown radio stations.

Carle notes how quickly the Nintendo Wii caught on in retirement and assisted living communities, and he predicts that it won't take long before iPads become a staple there, as well. He says that having the devices available in their libraries so residents can check them out for electronic books, games and video calling will be a cost-effective marketing tool, and a selling point for adult caregivers.

Almost surprisingly, Carle found very little interest among the seniors to use the devices for lifestyle or medical applications. In some instances, they felt it was simply easier to keep written records, while others expressed privacy concerns.

Who Needs a Computer?

The tablet computer could well put a damper on efforts to get seniors to adopt senior-oriented desktop computers. For many who never typed before, the last thing they want to do is start using a keyboard. That's one reason that he believes video calls will leave email in the dust.

Seniors like the tablets because they are generally intuitive. Once the applications are loaded, it's just a matter of touch and go. They don't want to be bothered with the small print of a 40-page instruction manual. And seniors like them because they can see what's on the screen, unlike smartphones, where you need a magnifier just to see the icons.

So boomers beware. This Christmas, you can well expect to hear requests for a new iPad from not only your kids but also your parents.

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