The one iPad and iPhone feature every senior should use now according to Dr. Tommy Korn, MD

According to AAFP (American Academy of family physicians), vision loss among our aging population is a major healthcare problem. Approximately one person in three has some form of vision-reducing eye disease by the age of 65. 

The most common causes of vision loss among senior citizens are age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataract, and diabetic retinopathy. Vision impairment is associated with a decreased ability to perform activities of daily living and an increased risk for depression.

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Dr. Tommy Korn, an ophthalmologist based out of San Diego, CA, actively works with senior citizens and elderly patients.

He spearheads Sharp’s many digital healthcare initiatives using various technologies, including Apple CareKit, Apple Watch, and iPads, to improve patient care and healthcare processes. Tommy Korn, MD is an ophthalmologist at Sharp HealthCare in San Diego, California

Doctor Tommy has one important piece of advice for all senior Apple Users. According to him, every Apple user should learn how to use the Magnifier feature on their Apple devices to help themselves and assist their aging loved ones.

Dr. Tommy uses the built-in accessibility iPad app for patients with severe eye disease (glaucoma, macular degeneration, low vision conditions) who are not candidates for cataract eye surgery. 

He recommends all his elderly patients learn about the secret ‘Magnifier’ and the Zoom functions on their Apple devices so that they can continue to read independently.

The secret & hidden iPad MAGNIFIER app can go a long way in helping your grandparents or aging parents rediscover the joy of reading.

iPad Magnifier feature for elderly readers
Dr. Tommy Korn helping patients learn about accessibility on iPad

The magnifier app is present on all iPads and requires NO app download, purchase, or subscription (i.e., no need to hunt down a forgotten Apple ID and password.)

The iPad is less costly and easier to use than bulky, expensive, outdated CCTV video magnifiers. 

Apple is a serious tech company about Accessibility and has incorporated it as a core offering on all its products.

“Patients are often referred to me with mild cataracts and 👁 surgery won’t benefit them.  The true job that I’m hired to do is find a way to help patients read printed material.  The iPad Magnifier app accomplishes this “job” of helping patients read much easier than wasting precious healthcare resources from unnecessary” – Dr. Tommy Korn

How to use Magnifier on your iPad or iPhone

To use the secret Magnifier on your iPad or iPhone on iOS and iPad 14 and below, follow these steps:

  • Open the Settings App
  • Tap on Accessibility
  • Scroll down to the Vision section and tap ‘Magnifier’ magnifier feature on iPhone and iPad
  • Toggle it on turn iPhone and iPad magnifier feature on

That’s it. The magnifier is added to your device as a shortcut.

To use the secret Magnifier on your iPad or iPhone on iOS and iPad 15 and above, follow these steps:

Apple changes the location of the Magnifier Shortcut on iOS 15 and iPadOS 15. You now find the Magnifier in Settings > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut > and checkmark Magnifier.

Magnifier Shortcut on iOS 15 and iPadOS 15

Once you enable the ‘Magnifier’ shortcut, you can add it to your control center for easy access.Add Magnifier shortcut to control center

How to use the Magnifier on your iPad or iPhone

The use of the magnifier feature depends upon the type of iPad or iPhone you are using.

If you have an older iPad with a home button or an iPhone 8 and earlier, triple-click the Home button. Then drag the slider to adjust the magnification level.

To close the Magnifier, press the Home button.

Use Magnifier feature on iPad
Image Credit: Dr. Tommy Korn

For newer models without a home button, triple-click the Side button, then drag the slider to adjust the magnification level.

To close the Magnifier, swipe up from the bottom of your screen. Magnifier feature settings on iPhone and iPad

The magnifier feature lets users easily apply color filters and save a magnified object as an image.

You can also reorganize the magnifier’s controls by tapping the Settings gear. 

Then, reorder the controls by dragging and dropping them in the order you prefer. You can also access the filter customizations to select your favorite filters. custom controls for magnifier feature on iPad and iPhone

You can learn about this in detail from Apple’s guide on accessibility.

How to use the Magnifier feature on the Apple Watch

Apple has also provided similar features on the Apple Watch that can be helpful for people who have difficulty reading smaller fonts and texts.

Senior Apple Watch users with vision problems can also check out the zoom functionality on their Apple Watch. Zoom is a built-in magnifier that works when you use your Apple Watch. 

  • On your Apple Watch, open Settings, then tap Accessibility

    Magnifier feature on Apple Watch
    On the Apple Watch, Open the Settings app and tap on Accessibility.
  • Turn on ‘Zoom’ here
  • Use the Digital Crown on the watch to move across the screen by rows or use two fingers to move around the screen.

Zoom Feature on Apple Watch

With magnification adjustable up to 15 times the native size, Zoom provides solutions for a range of vision challenges.

Bring new life to an old iPad sitting idly around the house to help someone who loves to read but has not been able to without the magnifier feature.

“1:1 human onboarding is essential for any technology to succeed.  This is why you see great success at Apple Stores that teach 1:1 human onboarding sessions. 
A senior relative who is not comfortable or proficient with technology will require 1:1 human curation and patience.  You will need to show Grandma or Grandpa how to use that iPad magnifier app (or any healthcare-related technologies).
Patience and helping develop new habit loops will increase engagement and delight.  This will require you to put yourselves in their shoes.”,
added Dr. Tommy Korn.

After all, Human empowerment with technology + empathy can go a long way in making someone you love feel very special, says Dr. Tommy. 

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Sudz Niel Kar
I am a technologist with years of experience with Apple and wearOS products, have a BS in Computer Science and an MBA specializing in emerging tech, and owned the popular site AppleToolBox. In my day job, I advise Fortune 500 companies with their digital transformation strategies and also consult with numerous digital health startups in an advisory capacity. I'm VERY interested in exploring the digital health and fitness-tech evolution and keeping a close eye on patents, FDA approvals, strategic partnerships, and developments happening in the wearables and digital health sector. When I'm not writing or presenting, I run with my Apple Watch Ultra or Samsung Galaxy Watch and closely monitor my HRV and other recovery metrics.


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