Are tablets a panacea to the problems faced by over 55s? Unfortunately not, but their apps can help us become more connected, entertained and informed, which can only improve the quality of later life.

When the first generation iPad was launched in the UK by Apple back in 2010, it was met with a fair amount of scepticism. There seemed to be a lack of clarity as to its purpose – was it a phone, or a laptop without a keyboard? – and most importantly its necessity – why do I need another device in my life? Fast forward six years and according to a recent Ofcom report well over half of the UK households now have one. A whopping 64{99f86ddbfda07ac83ac2f2c640d119bb7a4fb9279bd38fffc938e81711e7be41} is their projected figure for household ownership by the end of 2016.

You may not be surprised to discover that the tablet’s growth in popularity has been fuelled by the technology obsessed 16-34 year old members of our population. However, what may come as a surprise is that the 55+ age range is giving them a run for their money. Back in 2011, a measly 1{99f86ddbfda07ac83ac2f2c640d119bb7a4fb9279bd38fffc938e81711e7be41} of over 55 households had a tablet. That figure has ballooned to an impressive 44{99f86ddbfda07ac83ac2f2c640d119bb7a4fb9279bd38fffc938e81711e7be41} by 2016.

There are three main reasons why tablets have become so popular among the 55+ category. First, tablets, on average, cost less than laptops or desktops – about 60{99f86ddbfda07ac83ac2f2c640d119bb7a4fb9279bd38fffc938e81711e7be41} less. Second, tablets are lighter and smaller, so easier to move around than laptops. Third, tablets function differently from laptops and desktops and are regarded as easier to use. They boast a longer battery life (10 to 12 hours) and touchscreens.

For newbies to tablet ownership, whether an Apple iPad or Android device, it can be a little daunting and somewhat overwhelming when you first unwrap your new device. If that is the case, please contact Age UK Islington on 020 7281 6018 who will be able to give you information on classes to attend with like-minded people all receiving much-needed advice.

If you do feel confident enough to continue, the first thing you’ll need to do is connect to the internet, either by having a SIM card with internet connection installed (similar to the plan you may have on your mobile phone) or more popularly, using your home’s existing WiFi. If you connect straight to the WiFi in your home, you will not need to worry about buying a plan for the device.

Next, if you do not already have one, you will need to set up an Apple account if you have purchased an iPad, or a Google account if you have bought an Android device. It’s free and takes a couple of minutes. Why is this so important? Your account will give you access to the all-important apps found on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store respectively. There are a mind-boggling amount of apps available – some paid for, but a large percentage free of charge – that you can download and use at your leisure. From calling abroad to cookery lessons, there seems to be an app for almost any eventuality and they bring your tablet to life.

Once you have your tablet online and have created your Apple or Google account, it is now a great idea to sit down and think about what you want to use your tablet for. This will change and evolve over time as you realise your tablet can be useful for a vast array of activities, but to begin with it helps if you familiarise yourself with the tablet by downloading a few free apps.

As your confidence grows, you will be able to download and try more apps until you have your list of go to favourites that make you more connected, entertained and informed. To help you with this, whether you are a new or experienced user, here are a few of our favourite apps that we think you might enjoy.




Skype is a great way to call other Skype users for free, whether they are friends down the road or family on the other side of the world. Video chatting and voice only calls are available. You can even set up groups so you can talk to all your family at once on a group video call.



You may already use Facebook on your PC or smartphone. However, if you don’t want to have to keep going to your PC to view new posts and you find the screen on your smartphone too small to view pics and compose responses then the app on a tablet is the answer.



One of the really frustrating aspects of getting older is the occasional (frequent) forgetfulness that creeps in. Thankfully, Evernote is the one app where you can keep all your little and big bits of information, store it, retrieve it and access it whenever you need it. Genius.



This online shopping app created by  Tesco allows you to voice search specific items or scan the barcodes of empty packets. Then it will pop those items in your online basket, ready for you to place your order, choose your delivery slot and pay. Great for those with mobility issues.



Developed my National Museums Liverpool, My House of Memories allows you to explore objects from the past and share memories together. It can be used by anyone, but has been designed for, and with, people living with dementia and their carers.




Enjoy the best of the Beeb at your fingertips. Watch it precisely where and when you want. Why not catch up on missed episodes of Casualty while you’re cooking or how about watching David Attenborough on your belly at bedtime. It’s TV taken to a whole new level.



You don’t need a Kindle device to enjoy the Kindle app. It works brilliantly on iPad and Android and gives you the ability to read books on a beautiful, easy-to-read interface. Access over a million books in the Kindle store to buy, including best sellers and new releases.



There are plenty of free games apps to try (search solitaire or sudoku), but if you want to try a deceptively difficult game that eats hours of time, look no further than Threes! This number matching puzzle game takes a few games to click, but once it does, it’s so addictive.



Spotify is the best way to listen to music on your tablet. Search for any track, artist or album and listen for free. Make and share playlists. Build your biggest, best ever music collection. Get inspired with personal recommendations, and ready made playlists for just about everything.



Fly around the planet with a swipe of your finger with Google Earth.Explore distant lands or find your childhood home. Browse layers including roads, borders, places, photos and more. You can also see the world at street level with integrated street view. Captivating.




Feed your curiosity and expand your world with TED Talks. Explore more than 2,000 TED Talks from remarkable people – by topic and mood – from tech and science to the surprises of psychology. Give yourself the gift of TED and you’ll discover more than you ever imagined.



Specially crafted for tablets, this app brings you breaking news and full access to all of the Guardian’s award-winning content. Tailor your home screen with the sections that matter most to you, follow your favourite writers and keep reading saved stories when you’re offline.



This culinary delight features more than 30,000 recipes from popular chefs and cookbooks as well as more than 100,000 recipes submitted by users. In addition to the recipes, Epicurious publishes articles on food, entertaining, wine, health and shopping daily.



We featured Duolingo in our very first issue and we still love it. Learning a new language is always a good idea and Duolingo makes the process a lot less daunting by teaching you through a series of games-style lessons. Learn the basics of French or Italian (or Klingon) in just a few weeks.



WebMD provides valuable health information, tools for managing your health and support for those seeking information. The app has some nice features such as enabling you to create and save custom lists of drugs, conditions and articles that may pertain to your condition.



These apps can be found by placing their respective names into the search area of the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. They are all completely free of charge to download and use. However, books downloaded from Kindle often need to be purchased.

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