Before we get to the main subject of this week's post, we want to express our sadness over the news of the death of John Earl, a good friend to us and the IBM i community. Another friend, John Vanderwall, has written a tribute that is so appropriate, we see no reason to add more. John Earl's death leaves a big hole in our community.
When we visited Jon's Mum in England this Christmas, we had great fun introducing her to her new iPad--this just after celebrating her 85th birthday! Mum had never wanted to have anything at all to do with computers or the internet in any form, despite those of us in the "younger generations" (not often we get to be included in that phrase!) trying to tempt her for many years.
"Just think, Mum, we could send you emails!"
"You could Skype with the grandkids, great- and great-great-grandkids around the world."
"You could order your groceries online and have them delivered."
Needless to say she had no Internet capability in the house so our visits often involved frequent trips to the local McDonald's to get connected. She had been tolerant of this (to her) quirky behaviour, but clearly was not thrilled by our disappearances. But for us there was no other option; we had a business to run. Even using a U.K. mifi hotspot didn't help much as even 3G reception is poor where she lives.
Early in December, she shocked us by suddenly asking our advice about whether she should get a laptop or an iPad to go with the DSL wifi support she had already ordered for her home!
Our advice--no doubt whatsoever--get an iPad! In our travels, we have noticed an amazing number of senior adults who seemed every bit as attached to their iPads as we are to our laptops. We recall one trip very shortly after the first iPad was announced. At this point, we didn't have one and weren't even planning to get one in the near future. But in the restaurant at breakfast, an older couple was busily and happily planning their day using their new iPad. We were so jealous!
iPad's intuitive design makes it a particularly good choice for those who haven't grown up with Web technology. The touch-screen interface is often easier for fingers that don't have the agility they once did. Text can be expanded with a simple gesture to make up for failing eyesight. Some of the iPads "limitations" can actually be advantages to those who aren't "computer literate." For example, it has limited multitasking. But many seniors don't need, or even want, that capability. One task at a time suits them just fine and simplifies their experience.
We've seen many stories about the use of iPads with seniors on TV and online. Many assisted living homes now have special iPad-based activities utilizing a pool of iPads that can be checked out much like books in the library. One woman was delighted that she could see what the home where she grew up in Germany looks like today. Another was thrilled to be able to learn to play the piano on the iPad as her fingers were too weak to use a real piano keyboard.
What brought about the sudden change with our Mum? Even well into her 80s, she has always been able to get around quite well. The bus stops directly in front of her house and she has done most of her own shopping, visiting and many other activities independently. Lately, she's had some health issues that were making it increasingly difficult to maintain the independent lifestyle she had in the past. So she wanted to see if "getting online" would help her retain some of her independence in a different way and stay in touch with friends and family members more regularly without requiring that they travel to see her.
Despite her anti-computer stance of the past, Mum has always been a quick study and had adopted some new technologies better than we have. She can text rings around us with her very basic mobile phone and we have yet to come anywhere close to her mastery of her DVR system, despite using it daily every time we visit.
So we had no doubt at all that she would get along very well with her iPad and the Internet once she got past the discomfort all of us feel when we're trying something completely new (any former SEU users among you, think back to the first time you tried the RSE editor!)
And so she has. She has mastered email, learned to use Skype and is now a regular on Facebook, no less! In addition, we suspect she has already surpassed our high scores on Swipe Four and is solving Sudoku puzzles we gave up on long ago.
That's our Great-Great-Granny for you. She seems to be living quite happily in her new online world, thanks to the simplicity of the iPad. If you have seniors in your family who are techno-phobic, you may want to give it a try. The advantages can be great to help them remain independent.
We hope that Mum's health issues can and will be remedied, but now that she's online, she's probably hooked (we hope so, anyway!).
As much as we love the idea of being able to email Mum regularly, perhaps one of the biggest benefits we're anticipating is the "editing" that some of the younger family members are likely to feel they need to make to their Facebook posts now that (Great) Granny is watching.