“Not for me!” I said when I first saw one of my grandchildren fiddling with an iPad. “Firstly, I’ll never manage to hold it for more than 4 minutes, then my old thick fingers will never be able to pick out what I want on the screen and thirdly my eyes will never cope with the print. I’ll stick to good old paper and ink! Anyway, I love the smell of books!” 

However, in a presentation at a recent annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, Dr. Daniel Roth, an eye specialist and clinical associate professor at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, NJ, offered new findings on why tablet computers are helping seniors read with increased clarity and speed. 

Technology, he says, can make life better for seniors, not worse! Dr. Roth’s test results revealed that participants age 50 and above read about 128 words per minute on an iPad, compared to 114 words per minute with a newspaper. The font size was the same – 10-point. 

Dr. Roth suggested that the tablet’s illuminated screen enhances the contrast between the words and the background, easing eyestrain and enhancing readability. Since contrast sensitivity (the visual ability to differentiate between foreground and background information) declines with age, a backlit screen can help seniors see better and read more efficiently. 

Of course, a tablet computer like an iPad or Kindle also enables you to increase the font size, which increases reading speed. It also allows you to change the ‘paper’ color to reduce or increase glare to suit your eyes. After much nagging on my 80th birthday, I tried it and all told I now prefer the iPad for reading.    

There is one problem, though. Dozing off, a not uncommon 80 year old pleasure can be dangerous. The iPad is not a lightweight and it could damage something – or itself – if it slips out of your fingers as your eyes close and go crashing down onto the floor.