Helping my Dad Learn About Computers

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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.

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3 thoughts on “Helping my Dad Learn About Computers

  1. I also have experience teaching adults who have never used a computer before. I can tell that I really love the expressions on their faces when they “get it”. It feels great to know that you showed them a totally new world, something they have never even dreamed of before.

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  2. Thanks, Michaela. One of my biggest challenges is to not present too much information at once. I want my father to understand what the computer can do, but again, try to keep it short and simple. Yeah a whole new world is what they will discover!

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  3. RE: Telikin | http://telikin.com/

    I have a lot of personal experience with seniors and technology and recently took on a role with a company that has developed a computer that is specifically geared towards the senior community. While anyone can use it, and it was recently featured on the Rachael Ray Show as a family computer for a young couple and military husband, the user interface and machine overall has been designed specifically with the needs of seniors in mind. http://www.rachaelrayshow.com/videos/view/43/4282/

    I view this as totally unique and separate from other personal computers so I though many of your readers and your father may really like what this machine has to offer in the way of ease of use, support and feature-set.

    My mother-in-law was using another computer for years but really never took advantage of what the machine was capable of due to the need for other hardware or specific apps/programs and of course the need to learn independent apps and a complex OS. With the Telikin, she is now able to view my wife’s and my facebook photos of her grandchildren without going through a web-based interface, play games, use the web more easily (and therefore more overall), email (of course), video chat with my preschool age children – who also know how to use the Telikin – and still more than I can possibly note here.

    I genuinely hope this is helpful! Whatever anyone decides to use and support as a consumer, technology opens up new worlds and keeps us all connected in ways that we could have only imagined in our youth. I’m pleased to be part of a movement towards empowering baby boomers and beyond to access the benefits of this world.

    Ron Reed
    Telikin
    http://www.Telikin.com

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