Happy Grandparents Day!

Just a quick note to wish many of our users a very happy Grandparents Day!

Special week for families of Centenarians

You can learn much more about this on the page describing it (our announcement of free e-mail this week for those over 100 years old), but here’s the upshot:

  • Sign up your over-100-year-old friend or relative for a free trial
  • Get him or her connected (demonstrate!)
  • Let us know he or she likes it — and we’ll upgrade the account!

It’s never too late to get your grandparents, great-grandparents, or great-great-grandparents connected with the family. We just hope this will show you that you might just be wrong if you think “she’s too old” or “he’s not interested”. Try it, get a few photos from the relatives, and see!

Link: http://pawpawmail.com/learn/extra/centenarian.html

Coverage of Senior E-mail at Senior Communities

PawPawMail has released a new version of its e-mail product specifically designed for senior communities — assisted living, retirement villages, etc.

We’ll be letting you know much more about the new edition soon.  We’ve done a limited first release, but we’ll be available everywhere in November.  But for now, check out some local coverage about one ALF using PawPawMail — Redstone Village in Huntsville, AL:

Fox Affiliate (WZDX 54) Coverage: http://bit.ly/EmailElderlyFox54
ABC Affiliate (WAAY 31) Coverage: http://bit.ly/SeniorEmailWAAY31

Coverage of PawPawMail in Assisted Living

We got some great coverage of our easy e-mail product, as used in Assisted Living Facilities. We’ll tell you more in a bit, but for now, check out the coverage at http://bit.ly/cDCMSc

Dilbert Creator Writes (unwittingly) about PawPawMail!

PawPawMail - Main Page

PawPawMail - Main Page

Scott Adams wrote in his blog recently about his ideal computer system for senior citizens (“E-mail for Senior Citizens”, Dec 3, The Scott Adams Blog), which is an overlay for regular e-mail, showing only the basic functions while hiding the unnecessary complexity.

We like to think that his vision looked something like the screen you see here.

But regardless, check out this quote from the blog entry:

“All you would see is very large buttons labeled READ, WRITE, and OTHER. … there should never be any double-click situations. One click is enough …And seniors should only receive e-mail from people who are in their address books. No spam allowed…. Obviously someone would have to be available to do tech support, including entering new e-mail addresses in address books, and that sort of thing.”

It’s great to get some validation like this!  Even though he may have only been talking about PawPawMail in the abstract, we love that he so closely described our system.

Making an E-mail-Only Machine in Minutes

Creating an e-mail machine in minutes from an old PC

Creating an e-mail machine in minutes from an old PC

We just finished an overview of how to turn PawPawMail into the perfect e-mail appliance for seniors (or “email machine” as people like to call it).  It’s simpler than you’d think.  You create a shortcut to PawPawMail in Full-Screen (kiosk) mode, then toss that shortcut into your Startup folder. Go read our explanation!

Though it’s not widely regarded as a best practice just to turn a computer off and on, as long as a more experienced user makes sure updates are installed every once in a while, we’ve had really good experience with this.

And best of all, the seniors we’ve talked to about this setup love, L-O-V-E, LOVE it.  The main benefit is that it cuts the learning curve down to nearly nothing.  You don’t even have to figure out the difference between the filesystem and the internet!

And we think that this is the ideal system for seniors to use for staying in touch via e-mail.  Just grab an old junker computer from the attic or from your nephew’s basement, hook it up to the internet, and it takes on a new life as a simple e-mail appliance with a whole lot going on behind the scenes but a clean, simple interface.  And all you have to do is turn it on.

e-mail appliance alternatives

E-mail appliance alternatives

Just to be complete, though, we’ve also taken a brief walk through the alternatives.  PawPawMail can’t be perfect for everyone.  Some people want e-mail-specific hardware, and some people are just superstitious about computers from the get-go.   So for them, we’ve toured the various e-mail devices that we’ve seen seniors using. Let us know if there are any e-mail machines that we’re missing!

Go check out our instruction guide on creating an e-mail-only device now!

Who types in a pineapple under the sea?

Spongebob Keyboard (left side)The Best Keyboard We’ve Found (so far)

A SpongeBob SquarePants keyboard will initially sound like an odd choice. We’ve been told that it’s a little bit insulting to give a 90-year-old a keyboard that screams from the top-left, “I Love Bubbles!”. The surface features SpongeBob looking gleefully at the bubbles, Patrick the starfish lazily blowing bubbles, Plankton trapped in a bubble, and Squidward fuming under the right control key.

But it’s perfect in many ways that other keyboards fall short. It’s visually simple; it uses the standard keyboard layout; and it leaves out extraneous keys. The keys themselves are also nice and sturdy — and they require enough weight to press that they’re not easily pressed by mistake. We’ll address keyboard springiness, squishiness, and all general tactile issues in a later entry.

Visually Simple

Notice what’s missing? F1 through F12. The numeric keypad. Scroll Lock, Pause|Break, Home, End. Stuff you might use but a computer novice would not. Surprisingly frequently, users may press ‘F4’ rather than ‘4’, with very confusing results. ‘Home’ could reasonably be expected to take you to your desktop, but it doesn’t, nor does ‘End’ log you out. They’ve done an admirable job of including just what’s needed. And they’ve made it high contrast while highlighting the difference between functional keys, letter keys, and number keys with different colors.

SpongeBob Keyboard

Keyboard Layout

Similarly, the layout itself is exceptionally well-thought-out. I used it as my only keyboard for two weeks, and aside from getting used to the ‘backspace’ key being a row down, it was a very pleasant layout. The keys are exactly the size of those on a standard keyboard — the only difference being that they’re rounded. At first, this made touch-typing odd, but I got used to it quickly. And whether intentional or not, it serves a purpose other than just matching with the “bubble” theme of the keyboard — it makes accidentally hitting two keys MUCH less likely (especially at what would be the corners). Finally, the keys are offset from a grid, just like they are on a regular keyboard. Many seniors have lost some dexterity but could touch-type like mad back in the day. For them (and for those of us who use seniors’ computers), it’s maddening when the Q is DIRECTLY over the A key, and Z is DIRECTLY below S. It’s not the way your fingers naturally move if you’re trying to do anything beyond hunt-and-peck.


There has to be a catch to this heaven-sent keyboard. There is, and it’s not just the danger of being insulting by giving someone an “I love bubbles” keyboard. It’s that it seems to be no longer in production. On the plus side, it’s also no longer advertised, therefore no longer in demand, and thus somewhat available. But it undoubtedly won’t be forever. Check around. It was originally made by KidzMouse (who has no contact information on their web site — I tried to get in touch with them to find out more). It would be great to see another run of these.


I doubt we’ll find a keyboard that is better suited to the needs of the users of PawPawMail. And I love having a SpongeBob keyboard. As Spongebob sings (spelling “FUN”), “F is for friends who do stuff together, U is for you and me… N is for anywhere or any time at all, down here in the deep blue sea…”

New Feature – Senior Product Reviews

Walker BallJust through putting together PawPawMail, we come across a lot of products (and services) designed for seniors. Some are quite dull. But some are really thoughtful, amazing, unusual, inventive, or just fun. We’ll talk mainly about the latter category.

And since it’s not much fun to rant and rave among ourselves about large keyboards, touch screens, remote controls, and pour spouts for soda/pop/coke bottles, we thought it MIGHT be fun to jump on the internet bandwagon. Yes, we’re contributing to the weird inverted publishing world in which there seem to be more producers than consumers of content. But take the leap of faith, add us to your pile of blogs, and we promise not to tell you daily what we’ve had for breakfast.

We clearly won’t be doing this for every market segment within the senior population, and we’ll risk offending (e.g., “My mom is 102 and uses Microsoft Excel just fine, thank you very much!”). So from the outset we’d like to be clear about whom we’re targeting: older adults who are experiencing mild age-related issues with vision, hearing, coordination, or mobility, as well as those who are being suddenly exposed to new technology. So please don’t take offense if your favorite senior couldn’t possibly need something we mention (or if he deeply resents the term “senior”). We’re jumping into each product as it stands on its own, evaluating its solution to the problems it claims to address.

Thanks! And please, please suggest some of your favorite (or least-favorite) products for us to check out!

PawPawMail featured: “Helping Grandpa Get His Tech On”

New York Times article on personal technology for seniorsCheck out this article on communications technology for seniors (including phone, fax, and e-mail) in the New York Times last week!

It gives a great overview of technologies for helping seniors communicate — from the Jitterbug (the extraordinarily simply cell phone) to fax-based solutions for e-mail… to PawPawMail!

We’re thrilled to be written up (again! see an original profile of our story about senior e-mail in “Easier E-mail for the Older Generation”). But more importantly, we’re excited that the writer captured what we’re doing so well. It’s a better quick summary of PawPawMail than we’ve come up with ourselves:

“…For those who mainly use a computer for e-mail, PawPawMail (pawpawmail.com) takes the complexity out of the process. For $5 a month, users transmit and receive mail through PawPawMail’s Web site, which features simple graphics, large type and real names rather than potentially confusing e-mail addresses. The account manager, typically a younger family member, sets up the account, creating a list of approved e-mail senders; spammers and phishers cannot get through….”

So, check out one of the best senior technology overviews we’ve seen, and let us know what you think!

Way up yonder at the pawpaw fest

Ohio State Pawpaw Festival Logo

Ohio State Pawpaw Festival

PawPawMail at the Pawpaw Festival!

We’re going to the Ohio State Pawpaw Festival. What’s a pawpaw, you ask? See the pawpaw pictures at the pawpaw page at the pawpawfest website! Pawpaws are a wonderful, tropical-tasting, banana-custard-like fruit that looks a little bit like a papaya.

PawPawMail will be there, shamelessly exploiting its convenient name. We didn’t have the time this week to get together our perfect Pawpaw Recipe for that contest, but at least one member of the PawPawMail team will be participating in the Pawpaw Eating Competition (beware; he placed fourth out of six in one of hundreds of initial trial heats for the Krystal Square Off).

So if you’re within a couple hundred miles of Albany, OH this Saturday and Sunday, stop by our booth, check our how we provide the perfect e-mail to get your (grand)parents in touch with the family without too much fuss, and console our co-founder on his crushing defeat.