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Pi for Seniors

Tue Oct 10, 2017 12:42 pm

My name is Jack Chaney from the U.S. and my mother is in a senior center with a large number of other seniors, who, for many, grew up in the time before PCs were common. Many of them have a great desire to keep in contact with their children and grandchildren (some great-grandchildren). There are also a number of them that have shown an interest in learning new skills related to computers and networking. The problem is, they lack skills and confidence to engage with computers. I was wondering if there was a thread for the educational group that would be interested in developing a listing of the basic skills set for our seniors, using Raspberry Pi as an inexpensive platform.

Thank you,

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Re: Pi for Seniors

Tue Oct 10, 2017 1:58 pm

I am probably part of that group who might be described as 'Seniors', although towards the bottom of the range and not yet in need of care.

And I don't think it is a secret that quite a few of the most frequent and helpful posters in these forums probably qualify as well, or will shortly.

Other than for those with the greatest aptitude and determination I suspect that an RPi is not an ideal tool for social and communication tasks like contacting grandchildren. My limited experience with an older generation has been that even consumer-oriented technologies like digital watches, digital cameras and cellphones can be baffling and frustrating.

But I can see that if presented appropriately an RPi could be a useful tool for exposing the underlying technology and ideas. But it needs doing carefully, or the failures could be demotivating and alienating.

And isn't the same true for children?

So in what way do the materials, subject matter and presentation need to be different?

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Location: Chicago, IL

Re: Pi for Seniors

Tue Oct 10, 2017 5:50 pm

first you need to determine the exact programs that the "seniors" need to use to contact their children, gran children or friends. Then look at what hardware could be used and how to configure that hardware for multiple users.

I would expect that they would want some type of email service and access to the Internet. This could be done using a browser like Chrome or FireFox where one could setup an individual profile and configure the user's tool bar with the programs or links the user is most interested in using. The user could then setup one of the many free email services available and integrate that into their choice of web browser. They also may need some type of word processor and spreadsheet program.

As for the use of the Raspberry Pi for this project. You need to decide if the Raspberry Pi is robust enough for the task. The SD card is not as robust as as a hard drive or SSD. This means someone needs to be available to replace the SD card when they fail. You may also need to prevent the SD cards from being removed by the casual user. The Raspberry Pi maybe cheap at $35.00 USD but one still needs to have a keyboard, mouse and monitor. The monitor being the most expensive piece to the system. When compared to a Chrome Book system, it might not be cost effective to be using the Pi. Also the Pi has many features like the GPIO that the seniors will not need.

Many senior centers used older computers since they mostly use the web browser and some type of office suit. There are many free or public domain web browsers and office suites available for many types or Operating Systems. offers a product that works on many OSs and was the base system Libre Office was started from.

W. H. Heydt
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Location: Vallejo, CA (US)

Re: Pi for Seniors

Thu Oct 12, 2017 12:41 am

My wife and I probably qualify on the age basis (she's 75 and I'm 68). I started thinking about these issues when she was recovering from pancreatitis the better part of 20 years ago and was in a long-term care facility for the last two weeks of her convalescence.

First principle....make sure that everything on the screen is big enough to read. Having a relatively large monitor and then setting the resolution lower than native. Say a 24" display running at 720p instead of 1080p.

Put any commonly used program icons on the desktop so they don't have to go hunting through menus to find what they want.

Have someone do regular system maintenance.

Usea Pi3B (the fastest available Pi) and set it up to boot from an SSD. That way, there are no moving parts if it gets dropped and there is enough space to handle anything anyone keeps. 60GB SSD are pretty inexpensive.

If you can get the users to the point that they can handle individual logins, do so.

Have someone with a great deal of patience to work with new users. don't expect the users to read manuals.

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Re: Pi for Seniors

Thu Oct 19, 2017 8:34 pm

After identifying the functionalities from the device, it may be something relatively simple where upon boot up, a Chromium window launches in full screen mode with a local home page. It could be used to launch applications or windows in specific states (ie. new email in gmail, compose new email to granddaughter, etc).

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