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Apple iPad Field Test: Does It Have Senior Appeal?

The iPad has been getting a lot of attention since it was released earlier this month, but does Apple’s latest offering appeal to every generation?

We visited the Greenspring retirement community in Springfield, Va., to see what residents there think of the iPad.

Margaret Anderson, 70, travels a lot with her BlackBerry and thought the iPad might allow her to do more. She travels and takes a lot of pictures and e-mails with her BlackBerry, but she rarely uses it to make phone calls.

For Anderson, typing on the iPad’s virtual keyboard was easier. “The BlackBerry has one of these touchscreens, but you have to press down so hard and my fingers are too big or something. This little typing mechanism was much better.”

Would she buy an iPad for herself? “I might suggest that the kids go all together and get [me] one,” she said.

Joyce Gubbins, 78, uses her computer to do research, make presentations and send e-mails. A Kindle user and a self-described “bookophile,” Gubbins was interested in seeing the iPad’s iBooks application.

“For me, the Kindle or the iPad is a real good solution” to get books at a cheaper price and to avoid the storage problem. “I think they’re both excellent. They’re both easy to use and very readable.” But would Gubbins trade in her Kindle for an iPad? “I’m very happy with the Kindle, I must admit,” Gubbins said. “But—I’d love to have [an iPad] to play with!”

Irv Padgett, 77, is one of the Greenspring computer club’s go-to guys for residents with computer or printer problems. He primarily uses his computer for e-mail and researching family history.

Padgett looked up his great-great grandmother on “She was baptized in Alexandria in 1799,” he said. “So this gives an ancestry. You’ve got pictures of her, you’ve got her birth, baptism, adoption, where she got married.”

Padgett has a 47-inch TV and uses Netflix. How does the iPad stack up? “Not quite as big as my 47-inch,” Padgett said laughing.

Would he buy an iPad? Maybe if he were younger. “I need something larger [because of] my eyes. I can read this, but barely.”

Carolyn Nagler, 73, explored the virtual keyboard. “This would take some practice if you’re used to a regular keyboard,” she said.

Still, Nagler found the iPad easy to use. “And you can certainly get a lot of apps for it—I know that. And there’s more coming.” Would Nagler pay upwards of $500 for an iPad now? “Not currently, just simply because there are other needs for the money right now,” she said. “But it’s a very nice little device.”

Paulette Damm, 63, has three computers now. She does video editing, word processing and Web development. How does surfing the Web compare to her iPhone? “It’s bigger and I can read the whole thing.”

But … “It has no USB port? It’s just like the iPhone.” Damm currently has games and music apps on her iPhone and checked out the App Store for the iPad equivalents. Compared to the iPhone, the iPad “is much nicer, though, because it’s bigger.”

That size comes at a cost, though. “It’s a little more difficult to carry around than my iPhone,” she said. “And I do have a small computer already. If I didn’t have a small computer, this would be something that would be good.”

“It’s new, it’s pretty, it’s fun,” Cathy Bonner, 67, said of the iPad. “I’ve got the iTouch, so I don’t think that I would really need another. I like the big screen, though. It’s really nice, and it’s very light.”

Does Bonner see a need for an iPad? “I don’t see at this point that I would have to have one, but I didn’t think I needed an iTouch either!”