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Comfort Keepers debuts GrandPad, a tablet for the elderly [The Wichita Eagle :: BC-SRS-GRANDPAD-TABLET:WI]

WICHITA, Kan. - You've heard of the iPad, but how about the GrandPad?

It's a tablet designed to help the elderly, especially those with vision and dexterity issues, keep in touch with family and friends without the risk that being on the internet sometimes brings.

"This is an anti-isolation product," says Doug Stark, who owns the Wichita franchises of ComfortCare Homes and Comfort Keepers.

ComfortCare Homes offers long-term dementia care, and Comfort Keepers offers companion care for people who aren't ready for full-time care.

It's Comfort Keepers that is distributing the GrandPads nationally. They're now part of the hourly rate for clients.

"That's the nice thing about it," Stark says. "It is part of our service."

Others who would like the GrandPad can rent one for $70 a month, which includes unlimited access from Verizon Wireless.

Stark says a man and his son in California invented the GrandPad.

"They were trying to figure out a way to communicate with grandma," he says. "Grandma was way past being able to use an iPad."

They wanted her to be able to have conversations, easy e-mails and to share photos.

"She didn't want to just be 91 years old and stuck in the abyss," Stark says.

He says the pair seriously considered what features the elderly would need.

"They didn't get a bunch of California geeks together in a development office and have everybody say, 'Well, I think they would want this, I think they would want that.' "

There's no user name or password with the GrandPad. It's ready to use without having to find an "on" button. Users simply pick it up from a carriage that sits next to them.

"You open the lid, boom, it's instant on," Stark says.

When they set the GrandPads back down, they automatically start charging on the carriage. Photos rotate on display on the carriage as well.

The GrandPad features large, colorful buttons that allow users to e-mail or call at the push of one button instead of having to type in addresses and numbers. They can also speak commands.

A family member, such as a person's child, is the administrator of the GrandPad and can control what contact names and numbers are in it. All approved people get a GrandPad app, and it allows them to call GrandPad users and automatically upload photos to the GrandPads.

"That's pretty cool," Stark says.

There are games on the GrandPad along with a weather feature. Stark says there's a lot of access without a need to be connected to the internet, so there's no opportunity for GrandPad users to be scammed.

Stark says it "gives the family peace of mind that mom can't end up sending $5,000 to some screwball."

There's also a full insurance policy on the GrandPads for loss or damage. Stark says new ones will arrive 24 hours later via FedEx.

That could be important due to how popular the GrandPads are already proving.

"What's really crazy is ... they found that the average client that has a GrandPad uses it seven hours a day," Stark says. "I mean, that's astounding."

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