The 500 has 6 gears at least as far back as the 1996 model year, when it first became the 500 LTD.
The 500 is a nice bike for its size class, but (as you probably already know) it has a chain drive in lieu of the VN750's shaft drive. Its speedo is tank-mounted, and it has no OE tach, or fuel gauge. The tires are not tubeless on the 500, either.
Also, like its bigger brother, the 750, aftermarket accessories for this bike may be less than easy to find.
With all that said, if you lube the 500's chain frequently (and clean up the resulting mess), the 500 will give years and many miles of service.
The engine on this 500 is 1/2 of the engine from the Ninja sportbike of the time the 500 was introduced; this engine has a high-rpm personality.
Given proper treatment of the chain, and due diligence with other maintenance....like engine oil changes/valve adjustments, this bike should serve your friend rather well (assuming that a used 500 was not abused by its former owners).