Are you helping a computer newbie get online with a new iPad or tablet computer?

Many older folk are finding that iPads and tablet PCs are easier than any other computer they’ve ever used.

According to recent market research by the Pew Research Centre, older people are starting to get excited about tablet computers.

In the US, a third of American adults now own a tablet computer like an iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Google Nexus, or Kindle Fire (twice as many as the 18 per cent who owned a tablet a year ago and the three per cent who owned one in 2010).

And tablet computer ownership is not restricted to younger adults, either. Of those aged 65 and over, 18 per cent now own a tablet computer of some kind (up from the eight per cent ownership figure of 12 months ago).

But many older people still need a helping hand to enable them to set up their computer and to get registered for online services – especially if they are computer novices with little or no prior experience of the medium.

Here is some advice from Flinders University’s software developer offshoot, Clevertar – a group that has been helping older people get online.

What to buy

A full-screen tablet computer, like the Nexus or iPad, with a good quality display. Older people have vision problems, so screen quality is really important.

An on-board 3G wireless connection. Don’t try to be clever with a pocket wifi. We did, and found that it was another device to remember to recharge, which became another point of failure when things went wrong. Internet providers we spoke to say the same thing – in fact, they encourage 3G rather than cable or DSL because 3G is so easy to set up.

A stylus pen. Sure, they’re not great for multi-touch gestures, but most of the time novice users simply want to tap in the right place and their inexperience can cause frustration. Stylus pens overcome this problem. Stylus pens are essential for arthritic fingers too.

What not to buy

Loads of memory, because it’s not necessary for a few essential apps and perhaps some books.

A tablet cover. You probably don’t need to worry about the tablet cover unless the user is going to be travelling with it. (Go for it if you want, but we found that older people are often more careful than we are!)

A hand-me-down computer. Don’t give a newbie your slow, worn-out laptop – you don’t want it, and they won’t either.

What to set up

In our experience, complete novices will be very grateful to you for setting up the basics. This will probably involve joining up to a Google account on Android, or Apple ID on iPad, so that you can easily download apps (and to stop the device from pestering them to do it later on.) You may need to help set up the 3G account with a telco and then get the device connected once the SIM card arrives (which involves more signing up).

Fortunately, most of these things just need to be set up once, and once established you don’t need to do anything more.