A computer designed to fit on desks or tables and is the best choice for single user tasks.

By Publisher
Last updated January 10, 2022

Finding the best tablets and computers for seniors can be a challenging task, but it's more than doable. Yes, older adults can have a wide range of unique needs. However, computer manufacturers are continually coming up with new ways to meet those needs. From large-print keyboards to touchscreens to simplified operating systems, there are a myriad of options to help seniors stay connected with technology.

Besides, did you know that computer use is on the rise among this demographic? A 2016 survey by Pew Research Center found that 67 percent of American adults over the age of 65 use the Internet, up from 53 percent in a 2012 survey. About a third of respondents in the 2016 survey reported using social media (and 70 percent of those who did said they check it every day). A separate Pew Research Center study revealed that 25 percent of seniors play online video games.

When choosing any device, the most important factor to consider is what you want to do with it. Do you just want to send emails and look at family photos, or are you hoping to watch movies, print documents, or create spreadsheets? Will it stay in one place in your home, or would you like it to be portable? How much experience do you have with computers? Are there physical limitations to consider?

In the end, the best device is the one that most closely meets your individual needs and preferences. The following information can help you determine exactly what that might be.

Among seniors, traditional computers such as desktops and laptops are more widely used than tablets, but tablets have become increasingly popular in recent years. In the 2016 Pew Research Center survey, 32 percent of Americans over age 65 said they owned tablets, up from 18 percent in a 2013 survey. In order to select the most appropriate device, it's important to understand how they compare. Here's a breakdown of the differences:

Desktop computers

Desktop computers generally have a tower or base unit, plus a separate monitor, keyboard, and mouse. They come with large screens and have many options for full-size, ergonomically designed keyboards (including some with large-print keys for users with poor vision). Desktop computers have lots of processing power and storage capacity. And because they stay plugged in all the time, you can leave them running without worrying about charging a battery. They can also be repaired or upgraded more easily than laptops.

Desktop computers are well-suited for tasks like word processing, creating graphics, printing documents, or just having more than one window open at a time. However, as the name implies, they are designed to stay on a desk; you can't carry them around with you. They also take up more physical space than laptops.


Laptops are smaller, portable versions of desktop computers, with a physical keyboard and screen attached as a single foldable unit. They have a touchpad that you manipulate with your fingertips rather than a mouse that you use with your whole hand, but you can always choose to add a wireless mouse. Like desktops, laptops are good for multitasking as well as creating and printing content. Laptops are generally less powerful than desktops, but they are more powerful than tablets. They also have bigger screens than tablets, with more storage space.


Tablets are about the size of a book or magazine and are the most portable option. They have touchscreens and are smaller, lighter, and thinner than both desktops and laptops. Because they have no physical keyboard or mouse, they are fairly easy to hold in your hand. Tablets start up faster than traditional computers and generally take fewer steps to accomplish tasks. They also tend to have much better battery life than laptops.

Tablets are ideal for reading, playing games, browsing the Web, watching videos, and listening to music. However, they are typically not great for multitasking or doing lots of typing. You can often pair them with wireless keyboards, but those keyboards tend to be smaller than the full-size options available for desktops.

Now that you understand the basic types of devices, it's time to think about what will work best for you. Here are some questions to consider:

Computer descriptions can be long and confusing. But the information below will help you cut through the jargon so that you better understand what you're really getting with a particular device. Here are five things to consider when shopping for a computer or tablet:

  1. A larger screen is easier on older eyes and requires less scrolling. Desktops offer the largest screens, with some going all the way up to 30 inches, but they also take up a considerable amount of space. Laptop screen sizes range from 11 to 15 inches and up. Tablets are generally between seven and 12 inches. Anything over 15 inches is too big to be carried comfortably, so keep that in mind if you're going for portability.

    Bigger also means heavier. That might not matter if your computer is going to stay on a desk, but it's a real issue if you plan to carry it around. Tablets are the lightest option, but if you're leaning toward a laptop, look for one that weighs no more than four pounds.

  2. The operating system (OS) is the software that makes the computer work. Different types of devices run different operating systems, so you need to decide which type is best for you.

    Microsoft Windows is a widely used and highly versatile operating system that runs on desktops, laptops, and tablets. Many people are familiar with the Windows interface. These machines come in a wide range of styles and can cost anywhere from a couple hundred to several thousand dollars. One drawback is that they tend to come with a lot of unnecessary software, known as bloatware. Plus, they require periodic updates and are extremely susceptible to viruses and malware.

    Apple computers are powered by the macOS operating system (for desktops and laptops) and iOS (for iPads). Apple machines are known for being easy to learn and use, and they are extremely secure, with little risk of malicious software. However, they tend to be expensive.

    Chromebooks are simple laptops that run Google's Chrome OS. They are lightweight and inexpensive and are built around the Chrome web browser. Just keep this in mind: Since these machines are meant to be used while connected to the Internet, you will need Wi-Fi to perform most tasks, including retrieving your files.

    Android is Google's operating system for tablets. Android tablets are made by lots of different companies. For instance, Samsung and Amazon both use versions of Android on their tablets. But because there is no uniform version of the operating system, not all apps are available on all systems. If you opt for an Android device, make sure it has the features you want.

  3. Random access memory (RAM) is what computers use for short-term storage of data. The more RAM a machine has, the more tasks it can accomplish at once, and the smoother it will run. Desktops and laptops should have at least 4GB of RAM. Because tablets manage memory a bit differently, RAM isn't quite as crucial; most tablets come with somewhere between 1GB and 4GB of RAM.

  4. You also need to think about how much internal memory you will need to store your documents, photos, music, and videos. If you mostly just browse the Web and send emails, then 16GB might be enough memory. On the other hand, if you download lots of games, songs, photos, and movies, you will need much more.

  5. Before buying any device, consider how it will be protected against viruses or cyber attacks. As noted above, Windows machines are often targets of malicious software, making it critical to stay on top of security updates. If you don't feel comfortable doing that, see if a trusted friend or family member could handle it for you. Otherwise, you might be better off choosing a different operating system.

    Chromebooks are a good low-maintenance option. They automatically apply updates and patches in the background, so you don't have to deal with doing that yourself. You might also want to consider an iMac, MacBook, or iPad. Apple tightly controls its hardware and software and only allows downloads from approved developers, so its systems are fairly secure.

    Keep in mind, however, that there is still room for user error. Some people do not fully appreciate the risks of downloading files or clicking on links in unsolicited emails. It's important to educate yourself or whoever will be using the computer about the dangers of phishing and how to avoid getting caught up in scams.

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There are a wide variety of standard computers and tablets that work well for older adults, depending on their needs and budget.

A computer designed to fit on desks or tables and is the best choice for single user tasks.

While many seniors are comfortable using standard devices, those who have little experience with technology may prefer a computer that was designed with them in mind. The information below explains a few of the available options.

Telikin Elite II 22-Inch Desktop

The Telikin claims to be the easiest computer for seniors to use. It has a plug-and-play setup and offers a simple, user-friendly interface, with large buttons anchored along the side of the touchscreen for each function: email, Web browsing, photos, games, video chat, etc. It also comes with a large-print keyboard, a wired mouse, and a text-to-speech function that allows your emails to be read out loud to you. A feature called Tech Buddy allows a designated person to access the Telikin remotely, so seniors who run into problems can get assistance from a friend or family member.

However, for the price, the machine is underpowered. (It has an outdated processor and only 2GB of RAM.) Plus, it only works with certain printers, and the operating system is locked down, so you can't install any software.

You might be better off buying a cheaper desktop computer elsewhere and adding special software to simplify things. But for tech-fearful older adults who have never used a computer before, it might fit the bill. (Telikin also offers a 15-inch touchscreen laptop as well as an 18-inch desktop model, although both of these lack the text-to-speech functionality.) The company offers a 60-day money-back guarantee.

A Plus Senior Computer

A Plus offers a range of desktop and laptop computers that run Windows, but with a special overlay that makes things easier for seniors. Initially, the screen has only three big icons for email, games, and Google. Desktop models come with a 20- or 24-inch screen, large-print keyboard, and mouse. (Laptop screens are either 15 or 17 inches and do not have the large-print keyboard.) Touchscreen models are available for both desktops and laptops.

The main difference between these and the Telikin computers is that these are fully functioning Windows machines, so you can add any Windows software or connect to any standard printer. The hardware is also better quality than the Telikin, with a faster processor, 4GB of RAM, and plenty of ports for connecting other devices. The company also claims to offer lifetime anti-virus protection, so security updates should be taken care of. You can try one of the computers risk-free for 30 days.


Designed for adults over 75 who have never used a computer or who have vision, hearing, or motor skill challenges, the GrandPad is an eight-inch simplified tablet. It allows seniors to make video calls, view photos, send and receive email (including the ability to record voice emails instead of typing them), listen to music, and play games—all just by tapping one of the giant colorful buttons on the touchscreen.

Family members can download a free companion app that will allow them to send photos and videos directly to their loved one's GrandPad. Family members can also work with company support to specify what types of content should be automatically sent to the GrandPad. There is no Web browser, and users can only get calls or emails from approved contacts, so seniors don't need to worry about spam or security. There are also no passwords to remember or settings to configure.

However, the device relies on 4G connectivity, so there is a hefty monthly fee. And if you cancel the plan, you must return the tablet to the company.

Claris Companion

Another simplified tablet, the Claris Companion has a 10-inch touchscreen with a customized interface. It's designed to enable elderly seniors to connect with loved ones and caretakers and receive reminders about appointments and medications. Large circles on the screen activate various functions, such as photos, email and text messages, and Web browsing. Seniors can also use the "Check In" button to send a message to family members saying they're all right.

Care providers or family members can manage the device remotely and send photos and messages, set reminders, create contacts, allow access to certain websites, and more. For example, if seniors miss a medication reminder or fail to check in, family members can receive an alert.

Both Wi-Fi and 4G models are available directly from Claris Companion, but both incur a monthly fee.

In many cases, a standard device can be made more senior-friendly with the help of special software. Here are a couple options:

Oscar Senior

Oscar Senior is an app that allows any tablet (either iOS or Android) to be turned into a simplified device for information, entertainment, and communication. The app provides a simple, secure interface with enlarged text and big icons that enable older adults to make video calls, play games, surf the Web, check social media, get the latest news, and more.

A family member (who must also download the app) acts as a designated administrator and can remotely manage the senior's contacts and content. An administrator can even make a video call to the senior and have it auto-answered, so the senior can get connected without even having to touch the tablet. The senior cannot close the app or download any additional apps, and the interface blocks popups and alerts from third parties. However, administrators can easily exit the app, so the tablet can be used for other things.

The app is free for seven days, but then a subscription is required.


You can make a standard personal computer much easier for seniors to use by downloading the free Eldy software. It works on older computers running Windows 7 as well as some Android tablets. Eldy transforms the screen into a simplified menu of six large buttons for accessing the Internet, email, video calls, and more. Navigation is easy, as there is always a button along the bottom for returning to the main screen. Users can also close the software in order to use the computer as normal. (They get warnings asking them if they're sure that's what they want to do.) If they want to go back to Eldy, they just click on the Eldy icon.

With the vast array of options for tablets and computers for seniors, it's easier than ever to reap the benefits of technology. Finding the best option is a matter of deciding what you'd like to accomplish and what you're most comfortable with. Whatever your particular needs, you can definitely find a device to suit you.