In the US, an estimated thirty percent of the elderly live alone and a whopping eighty percent of the elderly have no younger generation staying with them. Due to work considerations, we often have to move out of our parent’s homes after college.
Or, after retirement, your parents may want to move away from the din and bustle of the city and settle in the outskirts.
In either case, it is the technology that helps us to continue to communicate with them regularly, through the myriad audio or video call applications on our phones or laptops.
Laptops for the Elderly
Smartphones, though great for a quick call, may not be so comfortable for the elderly for long use, due to their smaller screen sizes. For example, you may be celebrating your kid’s birthday and, unfortunately, your parents could not be physically present at the party.
Well, they can do the next best thing – join in through Skype or a Google Hangout call. The laptop will make it easier for them to comfortably fit in front of the camera, which is often a bit difficult in the case of a smartphone.
And your child will be happy to hear them sing happy birthday to her.
While very few products exist in the market which is dedicated to seniors, some laptops are better suited for their use or can be better customized to suit the needs of the elderly.
But, first, we will look at a few considerations which you need to take into account while buying a laptop.
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What to Consider When Buying Laptops for the Elderly
If your elderly parent is already accustomed to an operating system like Windows or Mac, it may not be a good idea to learn a new operating system at this stage. And Windows and Mac differ a lot among themselves.
So, any change in the OS may just lead to a lot of frustration while using. If the user is a first-time user, I recommend that you start with the Mac or the Chrome operating system from Google, as they are simpler and more resource-efficient.
Type of Use
This is a major consideration and easily the most important criteria to define the technical specifications that you would need for the laptop. The elderly mostly require entertainment-based capabilities like good video playability and good audio (for movies and music), a good browser (for social media, email, and YouTube), apart from good screen resolution.
If your loved one is reasonably active, she may also require good document editing and photo editing software. None of these activities require a lot of processing power in laptops and are not likely to stretch your budget. Instead, you will do well to invest in a good internet connection with sufficient bandwidth to support uninterrupted video calls.
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You may want to consider whether your parent’s disability, if any, requires any special feature or capabilities on your laptop. For example, if you have a loved one who is suffering from a neurological disease, she may have to contend with hand tremors and reduced limb control.
In that case, it will be greatly beneficial for her to have a laptop with a touch screen, rather than a keyboard and mouse set up. As another example, if your parent suffers from short-term memory loss, it will be difficult for her to remember passwords.
You may want to invest in a laptop that unlocks through fingerprint (through integrated fingerprint reader on touch-pad) or retina authentication (through laptop integrated camera), rather than a password.
Still Using Compact Discs?
While we have come a long way from using floppy drives, some of us may still be using compact discs and may not have fully upgraded to USB drives.
If your loved one has that CD library of movies or music and it will not be easy to transfer that to a pen drive, you may want to buy a laptop with a CD drive. Mind you, most laptops, nowadays, do not include a CD or DVD drive.
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Minimum Laptop Specifications
Modern operating systems use more resources and require an extra bit of temporary memory and processing power. Accordingly, you must ensure the following minimum specifications for your laptop.
- RAM: If you buy a laptop with anything less than 4GB of RAM, you run the risk of slowing down your laptop while using multiple applications in parallel. This will lead to a lot of frustration as the mouse pad and keyboard will frequently stop responding.
- Display: This may be the determinant of your laptop budget and try and get the best display for your budget. Also, as discussed above, you may want to invest in a touchscreen display if that makes your loved one’s life more comfortable.
- Storage: Storage has, over the years, become very cost efficient and you can easily get 128 GB of internal storage with any basic laptop. That is expected to be sufficient for a years’ worth of movies. I suggest that you do not make this specification a determinant of your laptop budget as external storage can be bought.
- Processor: Processing speed should not be a problem unless you are anticipating heavy-duty use like video editing or running large software. Otherwise, most basic processors will serve your purpose.
- Battery: In case you are anticipating that the laptop will be used a lot outside home, you may want to buy a laptop with good battery life.
Even though some laptops are better for seniors, it is essential that you configure the new device as per their needs and make it as comfortable for them to use as possible.
#1 HP 14-inch Touchscreen Laptop
This laptop has good processing power with an AMD Ryzen processor with a maximum output capacity of 3.5 GHz. It will comfortably be able to support multiple applications running in parallel with 8 GB RAM.
This is sufficient memory to run heavy applications like video and photo editing software. The laptop weighs about 3.25 pounds.
- Touchscreen capability with high definition screen resolution of 1366 x 768
- 8 GB RAM provides sufficient memory to run more applications in parallel
- Comes pre-installed with full Windows 10 operating system
- Lightweight at just over 3 pounds
- Good processing speeds with performance up to 3.5 GHz
- No fingerprint scanner
- No CD or DVD playing drives
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#2 Acer Chromebook 15-inch Touchscreen Laptop
The laptop is powered by the Google Chrome operating system and comes with high integration with the entire google product suite from Gmail, hangout, google drive, and more.
The OS comes with its own top-of-the-line security features which are free and constantly updated over the internet, which helps to minimize your maintenance cost.
- Chrome is a cleaner operating system to learn; should be your choice if you are new to computing
- 4GB RAM in Chrome gives better performance compared to windows OS, as windows typically require more resources to run
- Best in class screen resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels
- Extremely fast boot up with Chrome operating system
- Cost-efficient laptop at sub-300 $ range
- The screen can be easily cast to a larger monitor using chrome cast enabled devices (like a TV)
- Long battery life
- The internal storage of 32 GB is not much. However, the laptop comes with 100 GB of space on Google drive
- Laptop is heavier at just under 6 lbs; Not suitable to travel
#3 Lenovo IdeaPad 15.6-inch Laptop
The Lenovo IdeaPad is a series of high-performance easy to use laptops, which are cost-efficient. It runs on a 7th generation dual-core processor and comes with 4 GB of installed RAM.
You will have to pay extra for a full range of Windows 10 operating system (model comes with OS in ‘S’ mode)
- A large display with good screen resolution lets you enlarge objects without getting pixelated
- Bluetooth capable for easy sharing of files between devices
- RAM can be upgraded up to 16 GB. There are two slots available (you have to replace existing 4 GB RAM with 2 8 GB RAMs). For general use, 4 GB (or a maximum of 8 GB) is more than enough.
- SSD storage makes it faster to access files saved on the internal disk
- CPU speed, though sufficient, is on the lower end for this range of laptops
- The laptop is on the heavier side at over 4.5 lbs and is not suitable for carrying around.
- Comes pre-installed with Windows 10 operating system in S mode, which means you will be able to install only Microsoft owned applications
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#4 Asus Chromebook 14-inch Touchscreen Laptop
This is a touchscreen laptop, running on the google chrome operating system, and has a full 14-inch HD display with a screen resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels and the ability to rotate 360 degrees.
The laptop has a graphics card with 1 GB internal memory that lets you run gaming or photo / video editing software with ease.
- Fast processor with speeds up to 3.4 GHz
- Can run multiple applications without slowing down
- Lightweight laptop weighing just over 3 lbs
- Minimal boot time required; easy and comfortable to use for the elderly
- Comes with 100 GB space on Google Drive (free for 1 year)
- No-CD or DVD drives
- The internal storage of 64 GB may seem less if you store a lot of video content;
#5 Asus Vivobook 14-inch Touchscreen Laptop
This is a 14-inch HD touchscreen laptop with a quad-core processor from Intel Pentium, 4 GB of RAM, and 128 GB storage. The laptop weighs about 3.3 lbs and the screen resolution is 1366 x 768.
- HD touchscreen display, great for seniors with vision impairment or hand tremors
- Equipped with Bluetooth
- Extremely flexible laptop with up to 360 rotatable screen
- Long battery life
- Speakers are good, powered by ASUS SonicMaster
- Comes with 1-year of accidental damage protection; please remember to register online within 60 days of purchase
- Processing speed, though sufficient, is on the low end of up to 2.7 GHz
- No optical drives, that is CD / DVD drives
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#6 Dell Inspiron 14-inch Touchscreen Laptop
This is a touchscreen laptop with an intel i3 8th generation processor, with 4 GB of RAM (expandable to 16 GB) and 128 GB of internal storage. The screen is 14 inches in width and the laptop weighs only about 2.9 pounds. HD Screen resolution is 1366 x 768.
- RAM is expandable to 16 GB; however, be careful to buy compatible RAMs
- Fast processor, with processing, speeds up to 3.9 GHz
- Comes with 2 USB 3.0 ports
- Good speaker audio quality
- One of the most lightweight laptops
- Screen display not up to the mark; Video content not clearly visible from the sides; that is, you cannot see clearly unless you are sitting right in front of the laptop
- Comes pre-installed with Windows S mode, which lets you only download Microsoft store apps and lets you use Microsoft Edge as the browser. You will have to pay extra to jump to full Windows 10
#7 Acer Aspire 15.6-inch Laptop
The Acer Aspire 15.6 inch laptop is a high-performance device with an AMZ Rizen Dual-Core processor, 4 GB RAM, and 128 GB storage. It also comes with a Vega 3 graphics card which may not be of much use to seniors but is good to have feature. It is one of the best-priced laptops in its performance range.
- Good processing speed at up to 3.5 GHz
- Large screen with high resolution (1920 x 1080)
- Comes with a pre-installed Windows 10 operating system
- Long battery life of 7.5 hours
- USB 3.0 port available for super-fast transfer of data
- Good speaker sound quality
- Back-lit keyboard for better visibility
- At just under 4 lbs it is not the lightest laptop and may cause strain on wrists if not carried with care.
- No CD or DVD drives
- No touchscreen display
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#8 HP 15-inch Chromebook
The HP 15-inch laptop runs on the google chrome operating system and has a 15-inch touchscreen display with resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. It runs on a dual-core processor with a RAM capacity of 4 GB and internal storage of 64 GB.
- Best in class display resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels for sharper pictures
- Touchscreen monitor helps prevent mistyping and clicking for the elderly with neurological conditions
- Long battery life of up to 13 hours
- Backlit keyboard for better visibility in low light
- 4 GB RAM is sufficient on the chrome operating system, given the resource-light nature of the OS
- Processor speed is not high at 2.3 GHz, but is not a problem unless you are running heavy software
- Memory cannot be upgraded beyond 4 GB
#9 Acer Swift 13.3 inch Ultrabook Laptop
The laptop is a basic model with a 13.3-inch screen and a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. It runs on an intel quad-core processor with 4 GB RAM and 64 GB internal storage.
- The fingerprint reader integrated with touchpad; no requirement to remember passwords
- Quad-core processor for better processing speeds
- Good screen resolution providing sharp and clear pictures
- Extremely lightweight laptop at just 2.9 lbs; suitable to be carried along
- Long battery life; runs for 6 – 8 hours on full charge, depending on usage
- Comes with full version of Windows Home operating system
- The laptop does not have a touchscreen for ease of navigation
- You may want to buy an external hard drive to supplement storage
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If your laptop does not have a feature that you would want, most likely there exists an accessory that will let you have access to that feature by using USB-compatible devices.
For example, if you would need a fingerprint reader to do away with the hassle of remembering passwords, but maintain strong security, you may buy a fingerprint reader which is a plug-and-play device (device driver will be automatically installed once you plug it in a USD drive).
Similarly, many users may be more comfortable with a mouse, than being on the touch-pad of the touchscreen. Also, if you want short-term expansion of a bit of storage, USD storage drives up to 32 GB are available widely to address your problem.
Tweaks to Get the Laptop Set Up for Your Loved One
Finally, once your new laptop arrives, you need to set it up for the user in a way that will suit her needs. For example, you can increase the font size, screen resolution, adjust volume settings as per hearing requirements, fingerprint authentication, etc. – things that will make the life of your elderly parent easier.
You may also want to install Skype and Google Hangout or any software which is likely to get used, and do not forget to add a logo shortcut on the desktop or the taskbar where it is easily visible for the user to find.
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Depending on how active your elderly parent is, it is also useful to teach a few basic hacks to make life easy with a computer. Like how to search for an application if you have mistakenly deleted the shortcut from the desktop.
Or, how to use Cortana – Microsoft’s AI powered assistant on Windows operating systems. The laptops that we have reviewed above are all sub-500 $ and will most likely not put a dent in your savings.
However, it will make it much easier for your loved one to communicate with you and keep herself entertained!
For a complete setup, you may also like to read a review about the best mouse for arthritis.