I recently visited my mother and father, both in their late-80s, and both non-computer-users. It’s often surprising to my friends that my parents do not even own a computer. After all, I am considered the essence of geekiness.
I have no idea how this could have happened, but the Internet and personal computers slipped past my parents. My father was an innovator in the automobile business, using computers (heard of Wang computers anyone?) as a sales tool and processing customer paperwork. But he never made the leap from using computers in a business to using them in his own life.
Until now . . . maybe.
I found out my dad liked to watch a show called Golf Fix on the television, so I showed him how he could watch the videos, according to his selection and schedule, on a computer. This was the hook.
I started with a MacBook Air–showing him how to do the two-finger Apple scroll, how to click (that was a tough one), and how to click the forward and pause button to view a video. That kept him busy for some time.
After the Golf Fix videos, sessions became even more interesting. I moved him to the new iPad, watching him navigate the touch screen after just an introductory lesson. He read the Wall Street Journal. He used a calculator app. And when I showed him how to look up stocks, he became even more interested.
What did I learn from this? Well, first, I learned you need to be extremely patient when teaching someone how to use a computer for the first time. There is just so much to learn that normal users take for granted, such as clicking, scrolling, searching, and interacting with the device. Take small steps and introduce apps and functionality that the person is interested in. Make it enjoyable and take breaks. Encourage the learner and tell them they are doing great. Help them set up a home network and select the computers that will work for them. In my Dad’s case, I suggested a MacBook Air (portable and lightweight) and an iPad.
I’ll see if my Dad wants to pursue using computers when I return for my next trip. My guess is he will.