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Senior Friendly Guide to MP3 Players

The MP3 player, also known as a digital audio player (DAP), is a consumer device with the primary function of playing and storing audio files. This portable audio device has more functionality than its predecessors – the portable CD player or tape deck. The general idea is really quite simple — upload the tunes from a computer to your MP3 player. Without getting too much into the technical know-how, digital audio files are converted (compressed) into an MP3-friendly format and suddenly your audio files are portable. (We should note that audio files do not just refer to music, but can entail audiobooks or podcasts as well.)The most prominent MP3 player happens to to be iPod — and related Mac products — but they are not the end-all, be-all of MP3 players. It is a pretty eclectic type of product. When it comes to picking an MP3 player, “the one size fits all” approach isn”t going to get you far though. There is a wide array of features, some of which, like FM radio capability or Wireless capability, appeal to every type of consumer. There are also a series of senior-specific features, ranging from an MP3 player”s interface to weight, that aging adults should look out for. Hopefully our guide will cue curious seniors in on certain features to look for:What Seniors Should Look for in an MP3 Player I. Large Display ScreenNearly all MP3 players come with a display screen of sorts, which at the very least mentions the name of the song presently being played. It can range from a one or two lines of basic information to a full-blown screen which can show videos or photos. For seniors who have trouble reading small text, a large display screen will be an ideal option, as they will have an easier time reading and understanding the present information. We suggest you look for an MP3 player with a screen that measures at least two inches, diagonally. Zune HD (32GB – platinum)The Zune HD display measures 3.3 inches, diagonally. Equipped with vibrant 480×272-pixel resolution the display enables bright bold images; those with less-than-sufficient eyesight will be able to verify the name of the current song without squinting.II. Simple Interface Why is it important for an MP3 to have a simple to use, easy and intuitive interface? You want to be able to navigate between songs in the quickest, most efficient way possible.  The way in which menus and organized make all of the difference in order to get to a certain audio track as soon as possible.SanDisk Sansa Clip+ (4GB)The SansaDisk Clip is quite easy to use. The main menu is very simple: FM radio, voice, radio, and music comprise the options. An accessible music menu provides you with instant access to artists, songs,albums, genres, playlists podcasts, and audiobooks.III. Ergonomically FriendlyThe way in which your body interacts with the MP3 is crucial for aging adults. You want your hand and fingers to be able to wrap themselves around the unit in a way that enables them to naturally press certain keys and buttons. Hand grips are also useful in order to make sure the unit doesn”t slip out of your possession.Walkman Bean™ MP3 PlayerThis Sony model is ergonomically designed for both right handed and left handed users. Designed in a bean shape (hence the name), the hand grip enables you to naturally grasp the unit. IV. LightweightAn MP3 player doesn”t need to be particularly heavy or bulky. You want a lightweight MP3 for the purposes of mobility, particularly if you plan to use it in the midst of a workout. Especially for seniors with diminished muscle mass, it might be difficult to lift heavier objects. In this case, we suggest an MP3 player that no heavier than 12 ounces (3/4th of a pound). Creative Zen Stone PlusCreative Zen Stone Plus Creative Zen Stone Plus weighs under half a pound, which makes it quite easy to take along on any sort of journey. The unit is light enough to throw in your pocket or put in a day bag without feeling like you are carrying a bag of bricks around. V. Volume AdjusterVolume adjuster enable us to change the unit”s volume. On one hand, this is an essential safety feature for seniors so the volume doesn”t get too loud and we hear noises ringing in our ears after we stop using the MP3 player. On the other hand, we can adjust the volume and make the track a bit louder if need be. The fact of the matter is that seniors have sensitive ears and both external and internal factors need to be recognized; having a volume adjuster enables that sort of flexibility. The classic iPod changed the way in which music fans listened and collected music. We should note that that the quintessential MP3 also comes with volume controls, which can be adjusted via the scroll wheel. You can also lock and unlock the volume settings with a tab on the top of the unit, which prevents unplanned volume changes.

12 Responses to Senior Friendly Guide to MP3 Players

  1. Ron February 8, 2011 at 4:17 pm #

    I’m nearing senior age and find this review just not getting it. I have my father using an MP3 of which is the third one we’ve tried. A senior should have more options in basic players. One for audio books would serve many seniors just fine. Don’t worry so much on how it loads; somebody should be around to do that. More players are needed that: Do not have menus, do not have screens, do not record, and do not fall between cushions. Review some that have volume control, play, rewind, fast forward, & pause in a standard layout with well spaced buttons that are not so sensitive to touch.

  2. Fran February 16, 2011 at 2:54 pm #

    I agree with Ron. The interface is key. My blind father and handicapped mom are struggling. No Menus, big buttons.

  3. Ann Jensen February 21, 2011 at 9:32 pm #

    My mom has some early dementia and there is just no good solution to even just a Cd player for her. I just want big, well marked buttons, a big display, speakers & that’s about it. I want to have Frank Sinatra and some old radio shows for her. Even the “kids” cd players are not well marked enough.Ugh. This shouldn’t be so difficult.

  4. TonyDonaldson February 23, 2011 at 10:30 am #


    I completely agree. There are very few options, and that needs to change.

    Have you looked at the Tivoli players? Simple design, fairly large buttons. Their radios are great. The CD player is pricey, at around $300, but clear and easy to read.

  5. Pam Nickolaus May 17, 2011 at 5:15 am #

    I’m with Ann. I need something extremely simple for my 82 yr. old mom. Easy marked buttons that are not too sensitive, large display and speakers. Haven’t found anything that’s right yet…..and she needs to be able to enjoy her music.

  6. Debra August 15, 2011 at 1:54 pm #

    I agree! I’m looking for my 84 yr old mother with macular degeneration. Its difficult finding anything simple and easy to operate, cell phone, radio, cd player, big button universal remotes that work with Comcast digital cable boxes.

  7. Carl October 25, 2011 at 11:36 am #

    Thanks for the great comments on MP3s. My dad is 90, and he has dementia. For TV, all he can do is turn it on and off and occasionally hit the channel or volume buttons. Any ideas on something for thes types of old folks? When I bring him my MP3 player, his eyes light up. He loves listening to the songs I put on for him. Any ideas? One buttom = on off…and maybe a volume button. thanks allot.

  8. Tony Donaldson October 25, 2011 at 1:17 pm #


    Have you seen the various iPod Shuffle models? They have a VERY simple interface, basically play and pause, with an outer controller (around the central button) that allows volume control and skipping forward to the next track or backward to the previous. Very simple and elegant, and they’re small. Easy to lose (so the bright colored ones are easy to find) but also easy to always keep in a pocket or clipped on. The old white ones that look like a flash drive have a lanyard to wear around your neck if desired.


  9. Paul Jensen December 24, 2011 at 10:41 am #

    Unfortunately, the user interface on iPod is just too dang small. I completely agree that large buttons, large text and limited options is the right answer.

  10. Chris January 2, 2012 at 7:35 am #

    I also agree that the reviewer does not ‘get it’. My parents would like an MP3 player. The are in their late 70s and my mothers’ vision is impaired. So it does not need to be small – they will not be taking a jog with the thing. Rather, the opposite – it needs to be large. Buttons should be large as well, if possible textured to be able to distinguish them.
    They can use their CD player – so why is there no MP3 player which has similar controls? And no touchscreen for gods sake. And for transferring files a simple ‘drag and drop’ on their computer, e.g. take a file or folder and drag it into the mp3 folder.
    And forget about the menues and submenues thereof. A CD player does not need them, why then an MP3 player?

  11. jill January 14, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    Great to find this conversation, though i wish someone had found a solution.I too am looking for a player for my mom – something Simple … that i can load with an audiobook. With big buttons that are easy to activate with clumsy fingers and limited eyesight. Frustrating that this doesn’t exist yet.
    Has anyone tried out an ipad w their parents … maybe set up with only one icon .. ibooks? or kindle reader? or some audio reader if that exists? (I don’t have an ipad so don’t know what might work)… or has anyone tried a kindle for playing audiobooks? or for reading… since it can make the text big… thought that would require probably more vision and mental skills than my mom has most days.
    Ipod or kindle thoughts??

  12. Marlene February 4, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

    Looking for an MP3 player for my 87 yr-old Dad who actually does still ride a bike (so a smaller unit would be better) but has poor eyesight – needs BIG SCREEN DIPLAY / CONTROLS and little patience for navigation. His birthday is in March… anyone?

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