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The elderly get techy with iPads – Part 1

David and Marjorie are in their late 80’s, both are retired teachers. (David a maths teacher and Marjorie a music teacher) They love socialising, meeting new people and looking after their friends and relatives. This has become increasingly more difficult for Marjorie over the last 10 years or so as she is sadly now nearly completely blind.

A couple of weeks ago over dinner David was asking me about my job and how it was going. He was enthusiastically listening about all of the exciting things our company has lined up this year and how new technology is changing the way we work. One of those pieces of technology is of course the iPad. Which when mentioned David’s ears pricked up and he started asking all sorts of questions as his Grandson had suggested he get one. My initial reaction was “yeah I’m sure your Grandson thinks it would be a marvelous idea for you to get an iPad!” But as David explained his worries of postage costs going up, they send up to 140 Christmas cards plus all of the letters and cards they send throughout the year, he is thinking that going electronic might be the way forward for them. You soon start to realise the huge potential the iPad has for them.

What is incredibly interesting but also difficult is explaining how the iPad works and how useful it could be for them. Particularly if Marjorie could use it to read books using the read aloud functions.
One of the hardest things David found to understand was how wireless internet works and that there are two options of getting it onto his iPad. One would be a 3G option (via satellites) and then the other was connected through his telephone line via a Modem and a Wireless router (come again?!). After quite a bit of explaining about these two options and trying to work out which would be the best one, eventually David decided that getting wifi through a router would be the better option. In fact he thinks they would be able to get a deal with their mobile phone provider.

Once David had got the gist of some basic internet principles he then also started to question how the email side of things worked. Which again takes a lot of explaining to someone who has never used a computer before. David couldn’t believe that there were free email programmes like Google where he could store all of his contacts in an address book.

After quite a long conversation about how the technology works and how David and Marjorie might start to navigate around the World Wide Web, which you completely take for granted, I realised that in order for them to be able to use the iPad they didn’t actually need to know all of this. One of the issues David was struggling with was that I was trying to explain it through my logic of knowing how fixed computers work (having grown up as a “Digital Native” with the internet and technology evolving to what it is today) which he doesn’t need to understand in order to use an iPad. Seeing things from David’s point of view makes you realise that there is a whole generation of older people who might previously have been put off getting online because understanding how it all worked was just too complex and bizarre. So an iPad (not Android competitors because then you would have to understand how computers and the internet work) really could be a life-changing bit of kit – providing David can get the internet installed!

David has since been to several retail outlets that sell iPads to get more information and see how much it was all going to cost him.

Look out for the next installment of David and Marjorie’s foray into the digital world – maybe even watch out for them on Twitter but let’s see how email goes first!

If you know of elderly people who you think might love to start using technology, to help them keep in touch with friends, relatives and even order their weekly food shop, then why not have a look at the Give an Hour campaign which promotes helping older people get on line.

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Sophie O’Rourke

Sophie O’Rourke works at emc design, a leading print & digital design agency for publishing. She is interested in how education is being transformed by new technologies, the web and social media. You can find her writing for emc design’s blog (emcdesign.org.uk), on Twitter @sophie_orourke or at the next Book Machine social!

Comments (3)

  • My 91 year old mother has really taken to the iPad. She loves Googling, receives emails from grandchildren & other family & friends including photos (which of course are mostly online nowadays) & writes brief ones in return & follows all her favourite journalists on Twitter tho she doesnt tweet herself.

  • What patronizing drivel. Talk about ageism! How out of touch can you get?  The dated sentiments expressed are made even worse by the appalling prose! 

    Just who is this woman? 

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