/ Technology

Tablets for seniors: how have you stayed in touch with loved ones?

Technology has been a vital link between families and their loves ones in care homes throughout the pandemic. Our guest explains how people are keeping in touch.

This is a guest post by Robin Christopherson MBE. All views expressed are Robin’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.

The isolation of older and vulnerable people has rightly grabbed headlines during the pandemic, as has the inability of people to visit loved ones in care homes.

While technology is no substitute for a hug, devices tailor-made for older people or ‘seniors’ can make it easier to keep in touch during challenging times.

AbilityNet featured two devices in a recent webinar, namely GrandPad and video conferencing system ‘KOMP’ from a company named No Isolation. I’d like to explain a bit more about devices like these to show how technology is being used to provide support to the vulnerable.

Inclusive tablet designs

Devices like these were both co-designed with older customers, ensuring an inclusive design approach, something that AbilityNet strongly advocates for.

The GrandPad device is an eight-inch tablet that was designed alongside older customers with a focus on three key elements: hardware, software and service.

For example, did you know that as you get older your skin gets drier – making your touch less sensitive to to standard touch screens?

It’s small details like this that may not often get considered that can contribute to an inclusive design – the GrandPad’s screen is more sensitive to dry touch as a result.

Video conferencing for old people

Like the GrandPad, KOMP was co-designed with older people and is designed specifically to enable seniors to video-conference with loved ones, and has been specifically developed for use by people in care settings.

Read the Which? Guide to choosing a care home

Care homes have embraced technology during the pandemic to enable people to keep in touch with loved ones during painful periods of social distancing. During our webinar, Hill Care Homes told us how they’ve used tablets to help residents keep in touch and have even introduced virtual bucket list experiences. Its customer relations team told us:

“It’s been fantastic to see how elderly people and older people have embraced digital technology. It’s never going to replace a hug from a loved one, but it has been lovely for family members to be able to connect and be there when it’s the person’s birthday or to see new-born babies or just for a chat”

Safety is another aspect that is paramount when it comes to technology and the more vulnerable. We know from the numerous examples on sites such as Which? Conversation that scammers will use the pandemic to target the vulnerable, which is why both systems take steps to ensure they’re secure.

GrandPad, for example, ensures that only approved contacts (such as family, friends and care givers) can communicate using the system. Similarly, for KOMP, only approved users can start a video call.

How are you staying in touch?

These are two examples of the ways that technology is being embraced by care homes and older people across the country, but how are you staying in touch with your loved ones through the pandemic?

Do you have family members currently in care who you’re staying in contact with? Have they embraced video calling and other forms of technology to stay in touch?

If so, how are they getting on? I’d be interested to read your experiences in the comments.

This was a guest post by Robin Christopherson MBE. All views expressed were Robin’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.


This is really interesting as there seems to be more and more people being ‘reluctant’ adopters of technology, including my mum who previously would never have video called! Now we are over a year since seeing each other she is getting on board to see the grandchildren. Services like that offered by AbilityNet to help people get comfortable with using technology are invaluable. I highly recommend 🙂

Perhaps we are old -fashioned but we quite like sitting comfortably with the telephone and a cup of tea, or something stronger, when the relatives call – which is not very often and usually when they want something.

Richard Mason says:
9 February 2021

A horrendous article because it doesn’t state what the cost is and thats very very high – £49 per month yes per month.
Whereas the Amazon Echo is a one off total of £80.
It would be brilliant to have a complete article which covers the costs as well.

At the start of lockdown I was desperate to find a system to keep in touch with elderly parents 200 miles away who have zero understanding of computers. My husband set up an old laptop with a wifi dongle which we posted to my parents. All they had to do was plug in the laptop and press the On button. Using VNC (Virtual Network Computing) software on my home PC I can take control of the laptop, as if a Remote Desktop.

Once I control the laptop I Skype myself, from their laptop to my iPad which has a camera! This enables us to have video calls that I control technically, my parents just sit in front of the laptop. They do not have to press anything. I use their landline to check the call is convenient or alert them to problems. I have also connected them via Skype to other members of the family, one of whom is in Australia.

The only cost is for the monthly wifi pack. Apart from the odd glitch (usually because of updating) and occasional poor connection I have used this system every day for 11 months so far. It has been a vital part of enabling me to see and talk to my parents daily as well as enabling them to feel connected to the outside world while they are shielding.

Richard Mason says:
13 February 2021

Very helpful. Where do you get the wifi pack from and how much is it?

I assume Wendy was referring to a mobile broadband dongle, such as this one:-https://www.argos.co.uk/product/8839125?clickSR=slp:term:mobile%20broadband:13:17:2

That’s an interesting solution for keeping in touch with people who cannot cope with computers and tablets. It’s important to know about data cost and usage.

Chris Grant says:
16 February 2021

An excellent article! Really enjoyed the webinar.