My mother is an intelligent woman, but not exactly an early adopter of technology. Although she has been a senior citizen for two decades, she still adds multiple digit numbers without any calculator, and she knows eight languages, one of which she learned in 16 months while in hiding during the Holocaust. She came to the United States in her thirties, and out of necessity, learned to drive in her 40’s. She is inquisitive and gets her news from television and newspapers.
Technology was a different story. When my father died 20 years ago, I bought her a fax machine so I could help her with forms and letters. She learned to use the machine but not to change the paper. When it ran out, she took the machine to Radio Shack to buy and have the paper roll changed. With every power outage, I helped her to reset the clocks over the phone. A VCR was never even contemplated. A microwave, a gift from her nephew, sat idle until she eventually learned to use it, and it became an essential item. A couple of years ago, she became one of the last people we know to have a cell phone. No voice mail, as it was considered too complicated. The phone provides her security, and one of my daughters setup autodial numbers for her. Two months ago, one of my nephews asked my mother if she had one of my cousin’s phone number. My mother’s response was, “Yes, you press the number six on the cell phone!” She later on realized that the number six only works on her phone.
My mother is fortunate to have nine grandchildren and about 22 or so great grandchildren around the country and world. Unfortunately, none of them live in her city, so they call her regularly once a week. She loves talking to them and receiving pictures of them. I have been contemplating buying my mother a laptop for some time, but there were several issues. One concern was the Internet service to use and how would we determine the cause if there was a problem. When I visit my mother, it’s usually for a few days only and I felt that- with a laptop- there was too much for her to learn in such a short amount of time.
When the iPad first came out, my husband’s first comment was, “It’s going to be great for the elderly.” I didn’t take him seriously initially, but five months ago, when I visited my mother, I went to the Apple store and bought an iPad for her with a cellular service (please don’t tell her that I pay for it monthly). Right from the beginning, my mother was curious about it and was ready to learn how to use it. For the next two days, we sat together several times, and she practiced using it. Before I left, I had to make sure that she knew the home button, the home screen, how to open an attachment, and how to charge the iPad. After I left, we would talk on the phone and I would talk her through using the iPad to check her mail, look at the pictures and video, and save them in her camera roll (yes, she learned how to do that too!). Four months after she started using the iPad, she told me that she checked her email herself.
Three months after she received the iPad, my mother was coming to New York for a family wedding. My mother and her “significant other” make the best cookies. This is not just my opinion- it’s the opinion of everyone that has tasted them, family and others. When my mother comes to New York, she always brings cookies for her grandchildren and great grandchildren. This time, too, she was planning to bring some, but her suitcase only had room for either her iPad (she keeps it in the original box) or for some cookies. What do you think she decided to bring with her?