Mum, take your tablet

Guest author Ian Thomson relates the story of how he ended up getting his 84 year old mother a tablet computer.

iPad on grassSince everyone seems to constantly get older, and no one is getting younger, it’s no surprise that I now find myself looking after my elderly mother in areas where she and my now departed father would have coped easily in the past.
I don’t mind this after all she is my MUM….but it did get surreal when, a few years ago, she said she wanted a laptop and the Internet. She was about 80 at this point and had never worked a computer in her life; she even has trouble using digital TV. I went ahead and we sourced her a laptop. We then got BT, who she had her telephone with to give us Internet as well, it is easier when it comes to mum to have everything in the one place – believe me.
This seemed to be OK;  I placed shortcuts on her desktop and she merrily went along playing Solitaire and a word search game on the laptop. I showed her the email and Internet, but she never touched these areas as she thought she might get in a mess with it and break the laptop. I did explain that this would not happen but she did not take it any farther. Every now and again, when visiting, I asked to use her laptop and carried out all the Updates for Windows and anti-virus etc.
I later purchased a tablet for myself for ease of carrying and using.  I would get it out and connect to mum’s Internet and do some work while chatting and, while visiting her last year, she declared that she would love one of those; she was 84 at this point and remember the history of the laptop usage. Of course Apple had been filling the TV screen with images of iPads that you must have to complete your life but I was still surprised and put her off for a good few months. Each time I visited, though, and got my tablet out, she would say “I would like one of those and it would be easier than handling the laptop as I have to put it on the coffee table and bend over it.”
I tried to ignore it but in November she stated that I was to source one, buy it, and she would give me the money for it – she was treating herself for Christmas early. I went about the task and bought an Android based tablet that would be easily carried and large enough screen to be seen by her when using it. Of course I downloaded solitaire and a word search app for her and placed shortcuts on the desktop, which she uses. I showed her email again and Internet, I even signed her up for a G+ account and we had a hangout with my phone and her tablet in her living room. I thought this might help if she wants to chat and see someone’s face in the evening when she gets lonely.
When I now pop in I look for the tablet and it is in the box as she is frightened any children visiting will knock it off her table and break it. She tells me she does use it and plays word search or solitaire, but nothing else and I have sneakily sent her hangout requests to see if she is on it and try to get her to talk and use the hangout facility to no avail.
All good fun and makes me smile when I think about it.
Have you tried to introduce a non-technical family member or friend to a new gadget? How did you get on? Why not share your experiences and thoughts in the comments?
Ian Thomson is the founder of IT Turning Point, an IT Training and Consultancy company based in Fife, Scotland. Check out the IT Turning point website at for more information.

3 thoughts on “Mum, take your tablet

  1. Well done you. My Dad is 73, and has used a pc for years. He was away on holiday at the start of the year for a month, so I got him a tablet so he could stay in touch. He managed fine, though he admits he finds a pc easier.

  2. My mother in law was the first person in the family to get an iPod, loves reading books on her kindle, and owns a rather fancy laptop. It does only come out on special occasions, though, and when it’s put away she puts a bit of cloth over the keyboard, wraps it up in the original protective bag, and then it goes in its case. It’ll be in great condition for years to come… while my own laptop gets shoved under the sofa when it’s not in use.
    Oh, and we have to sneak into the bedroom when we’re visiting the in-laws to put the WiFi on… it always gets switched off when not in use.

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