Dear Savvy Senior:
Do you know of any computer software that's designed for seniors that I can download on an old computer that I have? I would like to set my grandmother up with a senior-friendly system for email and Internet access, but I don't want to spend a lot of money.
There are actually a number of companies and services today that offer simplified computer software that's designed specifically for seniors who have little or no computer experience.
These software packages can transform most Microsoft Windows personal computers (PCs) -- some work with Macs and tablets too -- into a much simpler computer experience that provides seniors easy access to most functions like sending and receiving email, browsing the Internet, making video calls, looking at photos, playing games and more. Here are some top options to check out.
Since it's completely free, a good place to start is at Eldy, an Italian nonprofit organization that provides simplified computer software in 25 different languages, including English. Available to download at www.eldy.eu, this software works on PCs that use Windows and Linux systems, Macs and Android tablets.
Once installed, Eldy converts the computer's desktop into a simple six-button menu that has large text, color contrasts and simplified instructions (no confusing icons) that makes it easy to see, understand and operate.
The six-button menu puts seniors literally one-click-of-the-mouse away from simplified versions of email, the Web, Skype for video calls, chat groups, a simple word processing program and more.
It's also worth noting that Eldy software works on touch-screen computers too, and they also offer online tech-support.
If, however, you don't mind spending a little money, there are also a number of companies that offer software similar to Eldy, but provide a few extra enticing features. One of the best deals is offered through SeeYouLink, which has a three-month free trial and charges only $4.95 per month after that.
SeeYouLink's web-based software will transform any mouse-operated or touch-screen Windows-based PC into a simplified, big button operating system with large fonts and color contrasts. This will give your grandmother easy access to a host of functions that she can select from like email, Web browsing, video calling, brain-fitness games, movies, Facebook, a calendar that sends reminders and much more.
In addition, this service also provides a "remote access" feature that will give you and other family members the ability to access your grandmother's computer system from literally any computer anywhere in the world, so you can help her set things up, show her websites, scheduled appointments, or guide her through any other questions or problems she might have. And, when you or your grandmother needs help, SeeYouLink offers free tech-support both online and over the phone.
In addition to SeeYouLink, some other companies worth a look that offer similar services include InTouchLink, which can be used on a PC, Mac or iPad and costs $13.75 per month or $150 per year; Pointer Ware, which works on Windows PCs and costs a one-time fee of $149, or $8 per month and BigScreenLive, which operates on Windows PCs and runs $9.95 per month for an annual membership.
If you find that you would rather purchase your grandmother a new computer that's designed for seniors and is ready to go right out of the box, you have options here too.
Two of the most popular are the Telikin, which costs between $699 and $999. This same computer is also sold as the "WOW" computer through firstSTREET. And MyGait, which runs $799 or $899 plus a $20 monthly service fee.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of "The Savvy Senior" book.