Folktells: A Seniors App By Design
Why seniors & other ‘tech-shy’ folk?
For many people, using apps on touch devices seems easy and intuitive, but for some people these apps are difficult and confusing. Folktells has been designed for both types of people, but with a deliberate & thoughtful focus on the latter. For the purposes of this article, we will refer to someone who is unfamiliar or uncomfortable with tech as ‘tech-shy’.
This tech-shy group may include seniors who didn’t grow up using computers and smartphones. It includes people who are in the early stages of dementia with a diminished capacity to learn and remember new things. It also includes those with physical disabilities such as vision impairment or mobility issues like shaky hands. These people all have something in common in that there are very few apps focused on their desire to be as included in the lives of their loves ones as their tech-savvy family and friends.
Read on to find out more about how we’ve designed Folktells to support seniors and tech-shy folk & enable them to take advantage of technology in a way that has too frequently been too difficult. If you are ready to give Folktells a try, be sure to read our Getting Started article!
Folktells supports seniors and other tech-shy folk in their daily lives allowing them to independently find the information they need and feel connected to the people they love.
Features supporting independent living
- whiteboard: the whiteboard (or notices) is a go-to place to display information like important phone numbers for family & friends as well as care providers, the names and relationships of family members, tv channels, meal times, and more. See our whiteboard article for more details.
- calendar: by entering events into a shared calendar and connecting it to Folktells, you can keep your senior folk easily informed about what’s coming up. The event title, time & date, description, and location of events coming up in the next few days are an always visible, easy reference on the main screen. Learn more in our shared calendars article.
- stories & messages: everyone loves looking at photos and hearing the stories about them. It is easy to turn your photos and videos into stories that everyone can enjoy. Folktells helps bring those stories to the forefront in several ways. By rotating stories in and out of the featured area on the main page, the stories suggested there are kept fresh and engaging. Story notifications can be scheduled to be played at certain times of day, prompting your senior to enjoy photos and videos featuring their loved ones. For more details, see our articles about creating and scheduling stories.
- task stories: some seniors benefit from task-based stories that remind them how to do household and personal chores that their cognitive decline make hard to remember – for example how to make tea or how to use the microwave.
- night clock: for those that get confused during the night, and don’t realize that they are supposed to be in bed, the night clock serves as a reminder that they (and their care givers & loved ones) are meant to be in bed asleep.
Anyone who has tried to use the accessibility features of iOS and Android would agree that many are not easy to use and are not focused on tech-shy folk. There are a number of features intended to assist people with impaired vision and mobility issues, but using these features requires the disabled person to remember complicated gestures that are very different from the standard way most people use their devices. These features are powerful and a boon to those who can learn to use them, but our seniors and tech-shy folk are not usually able to do so.
Features supporting accessibility
- read aloud: stories & messages are read aloud & shown on screen, supporting both those who are vision-impaired & who are hard of hearing, as well as allowing the enjoyment of focusing on the photos rather than the text while listening to the story.
- tap-to-hear: specific items (i.e. weather & calendar events) are enabled with ‘tap-to-hear’ meaning that they can be read aloud when tapped. You can think of this as ‘screen reader lite’!
- voice responses: this feature enables folk to respond to prompts with their voice so that they don’t have to manipulate screen controls
- large fonts: larger than usual fonts are used by default & even larger fonts are supported when the device is set up to use them
- screen reader support: for those that are comforft-table using device OS accessibility features, Folktells is optimized for Voiceover (iOS) and Talkback (Android)
Tech-shy folk often get frustrated, confused, and lost when trying to navigate touch-based apps. They tap the screen and suddenly everything changes, they might not know what happened, or how to get back to where they were. Folktells has several features that help reduce the frustration.
Features supporting frustration-free use
- storyteller mode: when this mode is toggled off, editing controls are hidden and the settings menu is locked to a PIN to prevent inadvertent navigation and changes. Learn more in Personalization:Storyteller Mode.
- simplified mode: the user experience is made even easier when this option is toggled on – calendar events are toggled open, the clock shows the day of the week instead of the full date, and the upcoming weather is hidden. See Personalization:Simplifed Mode to learn more.
- simple single main view: the Folktells home screen shows everything important in one place. Access to stories, calendar events, and important information is always in view. This means that there is no need to navigate to any other screen.
- auto-return home: after enjoying a story, or navigating to another screen, the app always returns to the home screen automatically after a period of time with no further input (touches). For example, if a person opens the story selector and then doesn’t make a selection (maybe they got there by accidentally tapping the story selector area and are now confused) the app will return to the home screen automatically after about 30s.
- auto-close prompts: prompts that ask the user if they want to see scheduled or new stories & messages will automatically close and return to the home screen if they do not get a response either by voice or tap.
- auto-close story display: when a story or message is done playing, it is automatically closed and the home screen is reloaded.
- voice responses: a simple verbal ‘yes’ is all it takes to enjoy a story or message when a prompt appears making it unnecessary to figure out where to tap on the screen. Likewise a verbal ‘no’ closes the prompt and re-displays the home screen.