Computers have sure come a long way since I sold them in college at our local Sears store. And they sure are a lot easier to use than they were too. Desktop and laptop computers are used in nearly all parts of life now: at work and at home. Many seniors have embraced computers but some still have a fear of the technology. Here is a guide to finding the simplest laptop for seniors who are afraid they can’t learn or that they may mess something up.
How Seniors Use Computers
Like I said before, not every senior is technologically illiterate. While some seniors have trouble with basic remote controls, many aging baby boomers have used computers for years. They know their way around a keyboard and a mouse. Many have experience using tablets like iPads. For the elders and seniors who don’t, here are just a few way that seniors benefit from using laptop computers:
- Social Media. Staying in touch with family and friends is important. Computers and social media sites allow seniors to see pictures of the grandkids who now live 3 states away. They are able to stay involved in the lives of their families and not feel as alone and sheltered.
- Recipes. For seniors who enjoy cooking and experimenting in the kitchen, the internet offers millions (maybe even billions!) of recipes. All these can be at their fingertips through a simple Google search.
- Email. More and more businesses want to communicate with their customers through email. Having an email address is becoming necessary and hard to avoid.
- Games. Many of the games seniors like to play are available in electronic versions. On a computer, these games are easier to play because they are easier to see in many cases.
- Discounts. I know that my grandmother loves nothing better than a good discount. Searching online for the best prices and reviews is a computer activity that seniors will love.
- Paying Bills. Many seniors love the ability to instantly pay bills online. This can be especially helpful to those on a fixed income who have to manage a tight cash flow.
- Work at Home Jobs. Some seniors have taken up working at home for extra part-time income. Computers are usually a requirement of this type of work.
Questions to Answer Before Choosing a Laptop Computer for Seniors
Before just jumping in and buying a laptop for a senior or elder, ask yourself these questions:
1. How will the senior be using the computer?
What the senior needs the laptop to do for them is a major consideration before buying a computer. A few questions to ask:
- Will the senior be primarily using the internet?
- Is there a need to run additional software like word processing or spreadsheets?
- Will the senior use the laptop for gaming or processing images?
- Are USB ports needed for connecting other devices like cell phones or Mp3 players?
2. What level of computer experience does the senior have?
Another major consideration before choosing a laptop computer is the experience level of the user.
- Beginner – No or very minimal experience using computers
- Novice – Can perform basic functions like opening a browser window and using Google.
- Intermediate – Knows how to install software, run programs, and
- Advanced – Can manipulate files, write code, create websites
3. What are the senior’s physical limitations?
Adaptations can be made for computer users with physical challenges and medical problems.
- Vision – does the user have any difficulty seeing small print? How about dimly lit screens?
- Hearing – Is the senior experiencing hearing loss? If so, at what level?
- Physical – does the user have arthritis or weakness in their hands that makes typing or using a mouse difficult?
4. How much does the senior have to spend on a new computer?
Laptop computers vary greatly in price depending on the included features. Basic, simple laptops are available for less than $300.00 now. Good, budget options exist for well under $500.00. Middle range well-equipped laptops are under $1000.00 with higher end systems over $1000.00.
A Review of Laptop Computer Terms and Features for Seniors
There is a lot of jargon and terminology that go along with computers and tablets. Most of it is easy to understand once you learn some of the basic terms. For the purpose of this article, I am not going to get too technical. My goal is to give you enough understanding to be able to compare options. Just what you need to know for buying the simplest laptop for seniors.
Technical Computer Terms and Recommended Features
These technical terms are used to describe the processing power and storage capabilities of computers. A very basic understanding of these numbers is all you need to shop for a computer. Here is a quick rundown:
- Operating System – Operating systems are what makes the computer be able to function. There are a few major operating systems (OS): Chrome OS, Windows, and Mac OS. A detailed comparison is more than you need to know for this discussion. But, I recommend the Chrome OS for simple to use laptops for seniors. Here is why for those who want to compare in detail.
- Processor – this the brain of the computer and the type determines how fast the computer is. Most computer processors on the retail market are made by AMD or Intel. This article by iFixit.com really gets into the details and differences among processors. For simple laptops, the processor is not a major factor.
- RAM – this stands for Random Access Memory and is described in Gigabytes (GB). It’s the temporary storage of the computer and is where programs and files are stored while the computer is running. In today’s environment, look for a minimum of 4 GB. Seniors with more advanced computer skills may need 8 GB or more.
- Storage – this is where the computer programs are stored and is usually expressed in Gigabytes (GB) and even Terabytes (TB). Most computers still use hard drives which is a moving device in the computer that stores the files. Newer technology is Solid State which stores files on chips inside of the computer. Most of the more simple laptops use internal, solid-state storage. Computer Hope does a great job of explaining the differences in storage devices if you want more details.
- Screen resolution – this indicates the clarity of the computer screen and is described by #### X ###. These #’s are the number of pixels in the width of the screen by the pixels in the height. The higher the numbers, the better the resolution. Look for HD screens around 1920 X 1080.
Important Laptop Features for Seniors
- Weight – laptop computers vary greatly in how much they weigh. Look for lighter weight laptops, especially for seniors with weakness. I recommend ones that are 4 lbs or less.
- Screen size – laptop computer screens are measured diagonally like TVs. So, a laptop with a 17″ display screen measures 17″ from one corner diagonally to the opposite corner. For most seniors, you will want a screen size of at least 14″. Stay away from the new 10″ and 11″ models – these screens are much too small. Also, a backlit screen is clearer, brighter, and easier to see.
- Battery life – indicates in hours how long the batteries will last between charges. The longer the battery life the better BUT long battery life may require bigger batteries which will make the laptop heavier.
- Sound – the quality of speakers on computer laptops differs from model to model. Higher end “gaming” laptop computers have the best sound systems. Don’t get too hung up on this though. The sound on laptops can be supplemented by using headphones or plugging in external speakers. Check out the best headphones for seniors here.
Additional Recommended Features
- Keyboard buttons – this is very important for seniors with bad vision or arthritic joints. Look for big buttons with big, bold letters that are easy to read. Amazon also sells keyboard stickers to put onto the keys that are helpful for people with low vision.
- Cursor control – most laptop computers come with a pad below the keyboard which moves the cursor on the screen. Many seniors, especially those with arthritis and hand weakness, will not like using this device. I don’t like using them either – I always use a separate mouse. It requires using the fingertips to move the cursor. Get a separate mouse to plug into the computer for easier, pain-free control
Winner: The Simplest Laptop for Seniors
Acer Chromebook 14, Aluminum, 14-inch Full HD, Intel Celeron N3160, 4GB LPDDR3, 32GB, Chrome, CB3-431-C5FM
$288.95 in stock
22 used from $ 180.00
After studying and reviewing the many laptop options, I am recommending the Acer Chromebook 14 as the simplest laptop for seniors. Chromebooks use a very simple interface and are a much easier system for elders and seniors to learn than Windows. This laptop has all the basic features needed for using the internet, storing pictures, and other simple functions. The screen is 14″ on the diagonal which is roughly 11-1/2″ wide by 8″ high. It is also extremely lightweight and easy to carry.
While you are researching laptop computers for seniors, you will run into terrible reviews of Chromebooks. But, keep in mind the intended uses. Typical complaints about these computers are that they are too simple. However, that is exactly what we are looking for seniors and elders. People buy these because they are cheap laptops and try to load them down. They were never designed to do this.
- Google Chrome Operating System
- 4 MB RAM Memory
- 32 GB Internal Storage
- 14″ High-Density Backlit Screen
- High-Density Webcam
- 2 USB Ports
- Up to 12 hours of Battery Life
- Weighs 3.42 lbs
- Model# 14 CB3-431-C5FM
Cheapest Simplest Laptop for Seniors – Runnerup
2017 Premium High Performance HP 14 inch Chromebook Full HD (1920 x1080) IPS display,Intel Celeron Quad-Core Processor,4GB RAM,16GB eMMC HDD,802.11AC WIFI HDMI Webcam Bluetooth Chrome OS, only 3.74Lb
3 used from $ 175.00
I also like this HP Chromebook 14 for seniors and elders who just want a simple laptop computer to use for internet and social media. It’s lower priced than the one above but also has fewer features. This laptop has half the storage of the Acer Chromebook which isn’t a big deal unless the user will be saving a lot of pictures. The screens are about the same size BUT this one is not backlit. That could make a big difference for a senior who is having vision problems. The battery life is a little less too. But, again, this probably isn’t a big deal for most elder and senior users.
- Google Chrome OS
- 4 MB RAM Memory
- 16 GB Internal Storage
- 14″ HD Screen (not backlit)
- 3 USB ports
- Up to 8.25 hours battery life
- Weighs 3.77lb
- Model#: N2840
Best Easy to Use Laptop for Seniors with Bad Eyesight
2018 Acer 15.6" HD WLED Chromebook with 3x Faster WiFi Laptop Computer, Intel Celeron Core N3060 up to 2.48GHz, 4GB RAM, 16GB eMMC, 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2, USB 3.0, HDMI, Chrome OS
$201.69 in stock
22 used from $ 145.99
For seniors and elders who have low vision or need more features, I recommend the Acer 15.6″ Flagship Chromebook. To help with bad eyesight, this easy to use laptop has a larger 15.6″ screen that is full HD quality and is also backlit. This is a powerful combination of features in a sub $300.00 laptop package. It has my other recommended features too.
This laptop is a bit heavier than the others – about a pound more. But, the weight comes from the larger size which is the main benefit of this laptop.
- Google Chrome OS
- 4 MB RAM Memory
- 16 GB Internal Storage
- 15.6″ Full HD Screen that is also Backlit
- 2 USB ports
- Up to 9 hours battery life
- Weighs 4.85
Summary: Simplest Laptop for Seniors Reviews
So, boiling all this info down, here is my recommendation for the most basic and simplest laptop for seniors. Look for a laptop that has:
- Google Chrome OS
- 4 GB RAM memory & 16 GB storage
- A backlit, high-density screen that is at least 14″
- A keyboard with large keys with bold print. If not available, grab a set of keyboard stickers from Amazon.
- a total weight of less than 5 lbs
- Use an actual mouse instead of the pad on the laptop. Here are a few recommendations for seniors with arthritis.
If you have any questions or recommendations of your own, please share them below! As always, questions are welcome!