10 Outstanding iPad Apps for Seniors

Commentary Recommendations Software
The Apple iPad
Photo Courtesy of Apple Corp.

Since its introduction in 2010, the Apple iPad tablet has proven itself as a valuable tool for information, education, and entertainment. With thousands of available applications (apps), the iPad literally has ‘something for everyone.’

This is especially true for seniors. The large screen of the iPad can help seniors overcome the bane of many older people – fading eyesight. Even though smartphones have gotten larger in recent years, the iPad still has the size advantage.

Today, there are several sizes – and prices – of iPad available. From the recently introduced iPad Mini 5 (officially, just iPad mini, but the 5th generation) to the hefty 12.9 inch iPad Pro, they run the spectum of size and price. All are available with wi-fi connectivity and optional cellular connectivity. 

Personally, I’m quite happy with my 4th generation iPad Mini with its 7.9 inch screen. While my iPad has the capability of cellular connection, I found that since I wasn’t ‘on the go’ very much, my need for cellular connectivity didn’t warrant the monthly charge. I can still access much needed information with my iPhone if necessary. It’s a decision to consider because wi-fi only models are cheaper to purchase than their cellular counterparts. Also, there is no ongoing cost. In today’s world, the majority of businesses offer free wi-fi, so connectivity really is no longer an issue.

Here are 10 picks for iPad apps I find useful.

Goodreads (free)

Goodreads is a book lover’s dream app. You can read reviews of books you are considering reading. The app also allows you to rate and write reviews of books you’ve read and keep a log of books them. Once you establish a reading list, the app will present recommendations about books that match your interests.

Kindle Reader (free)

In 2007, Amazon released the Kindle reader, a device capable of displaying books in electronic form. While improved versions of the standalone Kindle reader are available, there is also a free app for the iPad. This app allows the same functionality as the dedicated reader but with the complete functionality of other iPad apps on a single device.

The reader is free, but most books for the Kindle reader have a cost. However, in most cases, the Kindle version of a book is cheaper than even a paperback print version.

It is also possible to subscribe to numerous magazines in Kindle format.

Thus, one can have dozens, if not hundreds, of books and magazines available without the weight or storage issues of print volumes. I almost always have my iPad with me, and my iPhone is always with me. So when I’m sitting in my car waiting for an appointment, it’s easy to spend the time reading.

Calm (free)

 This is a time of great tension in the world around us. That tension has created a proliferation of apps for meditation and mindfulness. In my view, Calm stands out above the rest as being an affordable and effective tool.

The free version has a limited number of stories and features, but it still provides a broad introduction to the app. The two functions I use most often are Sleep Stories and the morning Daily Calm

Sleep Stories are 30 to 40 minute stories about calming scenes or events, read by a variety of people. These are meant to be listened to as you go to sleep. In fact, I have never heard even one of the stories in its entirety – I fall asleep before it ends. This is the goal that the Calm app tries to achieve.

Daily Calm is similar but includes a 10 minute relaxation to start your day.

Together, and with some of the other exercises which are included, the Calm app conveys the idea that you’re going to get through this and all you need to start is a moment in time.

A paid upgrade is available and includes a wider variety of stories and reflections.

Weather Channel (free)

There are numerous weather apps available for the iPad, but my favorite is the one from the Weather Channel. It provides comprehensive weather information with current conditions for your area and 10-day forecasts. There is also a real-time radar feature to observe rain and snow patterns when they are present.

The basic app is free but contains ad links. For a small fee – $29.99 per year – you can get an ad-free version.

Crosswords (free)

Many seniors grew up working the daily or weekly crossword puzzles printed in the newspaper. Working crossword puzzles has been shown to help mental acuity, as well as enriching one’s vocabulary. As with several other apps, there are a variety of crossword apps. However, this one is my favorite.

Magnifying Glass with Flashlight (free)

It’s a fact of life that our eyesight diminishes as we get older. Sometimes, we need a little help to read that fine print. This app uses the iPad’s camera to enlarge those small letters like an old-fashioned magnifying glass. The app allows variable magnification from 1.0 to 5.0 power. There is also a feature to grab a photo of the magnified image for storage in the native picture folder.

The free version is ad-supported, but I don’t find that obtrusive. So I didn’t opt to pay for the ad-free version.

Google Earth (free)

In this time of pandemic, when seniors in particular are sequestered in their homes, it is sometimes nice to ‘travel’ to other places virtually. Google Earth provides aerial views of most of the world in a free app. 

Google Earth view of the house where I lived for 25 years. It is 2000 miles away from my current home and I sold it nearly 20 years ago. Still, it’s nice to occasionally ‘visit’ it via Google Earth

You can search for familiar places as well as those you hope to visit one day.

The iPad app provides excellent views taken from aerial photographs, usually within the last three or four years. While it’s not quite the same as ‘being there,’ it is definitely a step up from imagining travel via a map or tourist guide. 

In preparation for this article, I searched for the National Liberation Monument in a public square in Maribor, Slovenia. I visited that square in 2016 but at the time, I really had no idea where I was in relation to the rest of the city. Google Earth put that to rest.

As a bonus, the desktop version also allows you to move down to a ‘street view’ in many of the more urban areas of the world. Thus, I was able to view the square exactly as I first saw it nearly five years ago, but without the farmers market which filled the square on my visit. It brought back good memories.

The ‘street views’ are also taken from photos taken specifically for the application. Unfortunately, the street view option isn’t available for the iPad, but the aerials still provide a great perspective.

Find My … (free)

This app is included with current versions of the mobile operating system for iPhones and iPads. Provided you have not blocked the signal in the setup menu, this app can help you locate a missing device. Use your iPhone to find your iPad, or your Apple Watch to find your iPhone. 

You can view the approximate location on a map – is my iPad in the car or did I leave it in the restaurant? – but you can also send a signal to have the device beep to further help locate it.

Amazon (free)

I’ve had the Amazon app on my iPad for a long time. But it really came into its own with the COVID-19 crisis. As millions of other people have done, I’ve switched a lot of my shopping to online ordering and home delivery.

Whether you love or hate Amazon, they do have just about any product imaginable. And usually, their prices are as good or better than physical stores. 

I have purchased paper plates from Costco for years. Lately, they haven’t been carrying the size I use, so checked Amazon. I placed an order – with free delivery the next day because I’m a Prime member – at a unit price cheaper than Costco.

So, while this app wasn’t something I used a lot in the past, since March 2020, it has become one of my most-used.

I developed this article using Scrivener

Evernote ($7.99 month or $75/year)

Evernote’s tagline is “remember everything” and it provides that capability with robust features for capturing, sorting, and searching documents of almost any type.

I keep my list of medicines and doses, warranty information, personal papers such as my will, and other documents on Evernote. The search capability, as well as several options for storing documents in dedicated folders and assigning keywords, makes locating a document a snap.

Documents stored on Evernote are encrypted for personal security.

There is a free version of Evernote but it is only available for desktop or laptop computers. However, the premium version is much more robust and includes additional desktop features as well as access through the iPad / iPhone app. 

I’ve used Evernote for about 10 years and have had the mobile app for about eight years. I find it invaluable and well worth the premium price. 

For example, when a doctor asks, “what prescriptions are you taking?” it only takes seconds for me to pull up my prescriptions and dosages. 

Is that car repair still under warranty? No problem. I can pull up the repair invoice.

Related Article: My Five Favorite iPhone / iPad Apps

Do you have other apps that you recommend for Senior Citizens?

Tell us about them in the comments below.

Mike Worley

Mike is retired and lives in Louisville, KY, USA. He writes about lifestyle issues, particularly those affecting senior citizens. He also enjoys photography and works part-time as a college volleyball official.