11 Apps for seniors this Valentine’s Day


SUNDAY marks Valentine’s Day. It’s a great opportunity to show your grandparents how much you care for them. Instead of just buying them flowers or dinner, why not get them some apps that they can use daily as well?

There are a lot of apps for the mobile phones and tablet PCs, and many are just for senior citizens to add convenience and ease to their daily tasks.

Here are some good apps for the iOS platform:

Lumosity (free, on iPad and iPhone)

Lumosity helps senior citizens train their brain. First, they will need to take three tests to set the baseline in terms of speed, train of thought and memory matrix. Then, they can participate in playing more than 25 games a day. There is a limit to the free games; you’ll have to pay if you want more.

Lumosity works with scientists and game designers to keep seniors (and anyone else) challenged as they solve puzzles that attempt to improve their mental function. The games are personalised according to age, skill and ability (as assessed in the baseline test).

The games are not as easy as you might think. No “old people” games here!

Goodreads (free, on iPad and iPhone)

This is a handy app to have if your grandparent frequently browses bookstores and aren’t sure if a book is good. Instead of whipping out their phone to search the Internet for comments on the book, they can just launch this app to read the reviews. Goodreads claims to be the largest book recommendation site in the world. It has over 500 million books recommended by 20 million members. This is the app to get for book lovers.

Skype (free, iPad and iPhone)

This is a great app to have for video chatting with the grandchildren and children, especially if they are abroad. Keep in mind though that using Skype is free, but they will have to pay for the data charges.

Silver Surf (free, iPad only)

This is definitely a good app for older people who have problems reading the text on websites. Silver Surf allows seniors to enlarge the font size on any website and even has High Contrast Viewing which changes the screen from black text on a white background to white text on a black background. The navigation buttons are simple and large, too. There are no menus to go through or numbers to choose from. Just use the slider to enlarge the font size.

Medscape (free, iPad and iPhone)

This app provides information about medical conditions, including the rarer ones. It tells you about the clinical presentation (signs and symptoms), treatment and medication. There’s also data on drugs (dosages, adverse effects, interations, warnings). Here, the drugs include herbs and supplements. There’s also information on procedures – what it is, what it is for, how it’s done, and complications.

An interesting thing that WebMD has is the Pill Identifier. In case you or your grandparents have a pill but are not sure what it is and what it’s for, just enter the shape, colour and form and you will get a list of possibilities – a photo with the name, which you can click on for more information.

The app also provides the latest news related to medical and health issues.

This is a very handy app to have, not just for seniors, but everyone.

WebMD (free, iPhone)

This is also a medical app. It is quite comprehensive, offering Healthy Target (helps you monitor your diet and exercise), Health Tools (symptom checker, information on conditions), Healthy Living (the daily lifestyle magazine), and Food & Recipes.

The most interesting part, for me, is the Health Tools. It has a symptom checker which offers possible illnesses/conditions. There are also alerts if the app suspects you could be having a serious condition that requires immediate attention.

There is a medication reminder, but this is only for western medicine and you need to know the names of your drugs in order to use it. I tried adding a reminder for a herbal supplement but since it was not on the app’s list of drugs, I could not add it for reminders. That said, if you have lots of pills from your doctor and know the names of all of them, this is a good tool and will come in useful.

This app also has a list of medical conditions with information on what to expect, symptoms, treatment, self-care, what makes it worse, and when to see the doctor.

There is a searchable list of medicines; no herbs or supplements here. An interesting addition is the First Aid Information – it lists medical problems, how to address each one and when to see a doctor. Also helpful is the section on Medical Terms which explains in layman’s terms what the medical jargon means. And, finally, there is a section explaining the various tests and procedures.

Quite a useful app to have.

Magnifying Glass with Light (free, iPad and iPhone)

This is another one of those must-get apps for everyone over 40 who has ever complained about the fine print on food packaging or medicine bottles. This is exactly the app your grandparent needs to read the fine print while at the pharmacy or supermarket. There’s a slider function to choose how much magnification is needed. It uses the phone’s camera for the magnifying effect. The light can be switched off – handy if grandpa is in a brightly lit area and doesn’t want everyone to know he can’t read the fine print!

Instant Heart Rate (free, iPhone)

This is a quick way for a senior citizen to find out their heart rate. Just place a finger over the camera and wait a few seconds to find out the reading. It’s a very basic app which only records the heart rate and helps the user keep track of their heart rate over a period of time. I wish it would have a way to tell you if you are above or below the normal range and what to do to get it back to the normal range.

Birthday Sweet (free, iPhone)

Why bother with such an app when your grandparent can insert birthdays into their phone calendar, right? Well, this app will not only list birthdays, but also provide the person’s age (if you have input their year of birth) and their zodiac sign. As expected, you can set alerts to remind you of the birthdays.

Blood Pressure Companion (free, iPad and iPhone)

This is a nice tracking app, however the senior citizen will need to take their own readings using a blood pressure machine. There is even a chart to show their progress and the target to be reached.

Motion Doctor (US$4.99 or RM20.55, iPad)

For anyone who has had a stiff neck or back ache, this is a great app to get. It is basically a physio therapy app that shows you the exercises you should do to strengthen the weak muscles. There is a video clip or photo for each exercise, making it easy to understand and follow. My only complaint is that the names of muscles is used in the explanation, with no photo to show where it is – not convenient for those who don’t know the names. There are exercises by body part, activity, sport and profession. I also wish there was an option to see which exercises are good for which condition (such as frozen shoulder, tennis elbow or repetitive stress injury).

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