My 80 Year Old Mother and Her iPad



It was a couple of months ago when I received the dreaded phone call from her land line to my cell. My 80 year old mother’s computer wasn’t working anymore and some incredibly patient technician spent over two hours on the phone trying to explain to her that it had a virus. I sure hope he got a longer lunch break or maybe even a day off for that because I guarantee he had to repeat himself for most of those two hours. Mom was also told that her computer was too old to fix and that she should just buy a new one. This poor guy didn’t understand that he was talking to a lady who barely understood how to push the button to turn on the computer.  She just wanted to see if someone sent an email that she couldn’t open and attempt to check her stories from the Days of Our Lives link that I had bookmarked for her. These were pretty much the only two things she tried to do on that computer and, most days, she couldn’t get those to work.

The computer may or may not have been an actual computer. My dad purchased it over 15 years ago. It was technically called an “e-machine” and he used it for solitaire. I’m not sure he ever figured out how to change the colors of the virtual decks of cards before he died. That didn’t matter. He just loved it when he won the game and the cards would jump across the screen. My mom was determined to learn how to use the computer when he passed away. Sort of working her email and looking at the Days posts counted for learning the computer in her book.

When that computer taking up space on a desk in her guest room officially died, she decided that she couldn’t live without an iPad. She didn’t really know what an iPad did or exactly what she might want to “fax” on it, but she knew that she needed one. She heard that people used them for all sorts of things. Some of her friends took photos and stored them on their iPads. Friends watched shows and movies. Something called YouTube sounded like fun to her. She heard that there were books on iPads. Her friends told her that it was easier to check email on an iPad than on a computer. She wanted to look at the weather radar during storm season like I do. She even had her sights set on the possibility of having her very own Facebook page.

I heard about this iPad for days on end until I knew that there was no way to hold her off any longer. I also knew that as soon as she had that iPad in her hands, my new IT Specialist job had officially begun. When she watched her grandkids maneuver through the apps on their phones and iPads, it looked so quick and easy. When I pulled up a video link, I understood how to skip the ad or wait for any buffering. There is one reason that we know what we’re doing–we experiment. We take the time to learn our devices. We google for answers when we are stumped. My mom doesn’t know the first thing about how to search the internet. She’s not even sure how many “Ws” go in a website address or which icon even opens the Internet- whatever that means.

I set up her new iPad, complete with the pretty aqua-blue cover, with settings that only I could control. This allows me to troubleshoot most problems from my home, but hasn’t completely saved me from those times when it is simply easier to drive to her house and clear that screen myself. She doesn’t have a clue what an Apple ID is or how to change her settings. In order to simplify her iPad life, I chose just a couple of apps that I thought she could actually work. I moved any unwanted icons off of her main screen, leaving only the ones that she might use in view. There was really only one thing that was super important to her– that the picture on her lock screen matched the color of her cover.

We did set her up with a Facebook account. Because she has been on local TV for over 30 years, she was quickly flooded with friend requests. She had no idea what that meant. It seemed to her that she might have to invite all of these people to Thanksgiving dinner. She still doesn’t understand that a Facebook post isn’t a message between two people. She keeps asking why she gets all of these different messages or photos of people she doesn’t know. “Why do people keep sending me these things?” I can’t come up with an explanation that makes sense to her. She managed to share a link to a motocross article that she’s positive she never read and start a group message with several people that had nothing in it. We had to show her where to put her finger to scroll through her newsfeed without accidentally “liking” things. She’s banned from commenting until we have several tutorials on that skill. To her credit, she abides by the current Facebook rules. It’s got to be a look, but don’t act site for now.

I’m convinced that the learning curve for her generation with technology is pretty steep. It is beyond her wildest imagination that she can see photos that my brother posts from another state without having them printed and sent in an envelope through the mail. Props to my mother for giving it a shot. Now that she’s “mastered” her iPad- and I’m using that term loosely- she’s asked for an iPhone. Time to get ready for all of those empty speech bubbles that will start popping up in my texts.

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