If your parents are over 80, chances are, they never used a computer in the workplace, however, that doesn’t mean that they can’t learn basic computer skills to open a new world to them. Being able to connect with people online will help reduce loneliness, which impacts their physical and mental well-being. But how can you get your parents started if they have never used a computer?
Start with a tablet
If your parents have never used a computer and are not planning on doing much more than web surfing, connecting online and perhaps doing video calls with family or friends, a tablet is the perfect way to start.
I had a customer with dementia who was able to FaceTime with her family in Michigan on her iPad Mini. While iPads are pricey, they are really easy to use. The FaceTime app is prominent and simple to set up, which means they will actually use it.
My family recently purchased a Kindle Fire. We have been extremely pleased with it. It operates on Android, so while your parents won’t be able to use FaceTime, you can set up Skype or Google Hangouts accounts so that they can still video chat. All of the other apps that we use on our iPad are accessible on the Kindle Fire and the Kindle is available at a fraction of the price. In fact, we purchased ours on sale for less than $40.
If you are getting your parents set up on a tablet, I highly recommend writing up a cheat sheet on how to use their tablet and how to get in and out of apps they want to use. You want to make it simple for them to use so that they will enjoy hopping on their tablet, not get frustrated and throw it in a drawer.
You will also want to set up apps for them to use so they can make the most of their tablet. Here are some of my and my parents’ favorite apps:
1. Facebook: I can’t express enough how life-changing Facebook has been for my dad. As an immigrant, he doesn’t have the opportunity to speak to his sister, nieces and nephews regularly, due to cost and time zones. Through Facebook, he is able to connect with them and get a picture of their day-to-day life. He has been able to re-connect with school friends from his childhood and reach out to family and friends regularly. Don’t just set up the page for your parents, help them locate their friends and family so they immediately see how they’ll benefit from reaching out online.
2. Video Chat: I mentioned it above, but wanted to discuss how great this can be for families that are spread out across the country – or world. If your parents are on an iPad, they can use FaceTime, or if they have an Android tablet, they can use Skype or Google Hangouts for video chatting. We are so fortunate to live in a time where we can have video phone conversations with friends and family, no matter where they live. In the past, if you lived far from your parents, your children only got to see their grandparents the handful of times you visit each other each year. Now, you can set up weekly – or daily – chats with long distance family.
My nieces live in Baltimore and we live in Los Angeles. I’m so lucky to be able to video chat with them regularly, so that they still get to know me and I get to see them frequently. I have had clients who video chatted with family during mealtimes so they didn’t feel so alone while they ate dinner. Once your parents get the hang of it, it’ll be second nature for them and you’ll all have the joy of seeing each other smile instead of imagining the smile on their face.
3. Email: Depending on how tech-savvy your parents are, you can set up an email account for free through Google so that they can communicate with long-distance family – or younger relatives – via email. You’ll be able to send them pictures or video via email and they can use it to communicate with friends.
It is a bit more challenging to use email on a tablet, so if you think it is something they will want to use regularly, you may want to consider a Chromebook, which is a laptop that is connected to a Google account. It is simpler to use than a regular laptop and they won’t need to purchase expensive software. You can find one for less than $200, so once your parents get used to using it, they can do more than just web surfing.
4. Flipboard: If you haven’t tried Flipboard, you are missing out! It is like a digital magazine with content you want to read. You can personalize it to feed you content from sites like BBC or Martha Stewart Living. My dad prefers to have various news sites on his Flipboard account, while my mom has her account full of craft and cooking content. I personally prefer using it for wellness and lifestyle content, in addition to my mindless entertainment news. You can personalize it however you’d like and have your news delivered to you.
5. Pinterest: I have fallen down the Pinterest rabbit hole and can’t quit. My sister-in-law once said that it has completely replaced magazines for her, but better. You can find anything from home décor, cooking, craft projects, inspirational quotes, health and wellness and anything else you can think of and save it to refer back to. My mom has stopped using cookbooks since discovering Pinterest and has learned to knit.
6. EBooks: Whether your parent uses an iPad or Kindle, they can download eBooks to read on their tablet. They can download a Kindle app on whichever platform they are using and if they have an Amazon Prime account, they can get one free book per month and also use the Kindle Lending Library to borrow one book per month. There are also a number of websites that have low cost or free eBooks. One of my favorites is Book Bub, which sends a daily email with a listing of book deals under $5. They can also check out eBooks for free from their public library website, however, that is a bit more complicated so you may need to help your parents learn how to download from the library website.
If your parent is completely tech illiterate and you don’t have the time to teach them, most senior centers offer technology training for free. They can also check with their local public library for free computer classes or they can pay for a class through their local community recreation center. You can also enlist a high school or college student looking to make some extra money or do a good deed. Once they get the hang of using their technology, it will truly open a whole new world to them, even if they aren’t able to get out of the house frequently.
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