Five Tips for Helping Parents with Technology

The New York Times published, Five Tips for Helping Parents with Technology, an article by Paul Boutin on 3/31/11. I tried adding reader comments with a sixth tip, but it wasn’t included because of a glitch in their software. So, I’m summarizing some content here and adding my comment, but I encourage you to read the full article here.

These five steps will make problem-solving much less frustrating:

  1. Switch your parents to the same phone you use.
  2. Switch your parents to whatever e-mail program you use.
  3. Give your folks a computer and printer just like yours.
  4. Set your parents up with remote computer screen viewing software.
  5. Get them on Facebook.
  6. ALSO: Get them on the same video conferencing system you use.

Reader Comments:

Many of the comments thought the article was condescending. One, from an 83-year-old man in Miami named Howard, caught my attention and prompted my own comment:

mHealthTalk (not posted): Howard (83 from Miami) said it best. His personal story matches what I’ve found running a website for home healthcare and aging-in-place. Heck, I even think baby boomer “children” are better suited to choose some of the technologies for home healthcare than professional care providers, for many of the reasons Paul described.

Here’s a possible sixth step to add to Paul’s five: Get your parents on the same video conferencing system you use. That way you can use the same product to talk to your own kids and grandkids that you use to talk to your parents. That’s especially important since these products don’t all talk to each other. See Video Conferencing for Home Healthcare.

Howard (included here for context): “I am 83 and a good example of a parent with a boomer daughter and son-in-law who somewhat patiently serve as my help-desk. They have been buying me, handing me down, or helping me set up Apple computers I have bought, for the past 10 years or so. They also hand down their iPhones as they upgrade, which is fine. I LOVE my iPhone but I don’t need the absolute latest one. At first I had no interest in an iPhone. What actually captured me were the big numbers on the dial keypad. First I said, No apps! Now I have many. I see my daughter and son-in-law in person 1 – 2 times a year so the remote help you mention is essential.I strongly agree with you that it is important that we have the same equipment. I would also encourage any other seniors out there buying computers to get a Mac. It’s so much easier. When I need help, my daughter gets me on iChat to do screen sharing. I went out and bought a Brother printer on my own which was a mistake. It was what the guy at Best Buy recommended but my family tech team was frustrated trying to walk me through any problems I had because they weren’t familiar with it. When I got my latest Mac it came with a free HP printer which put us back on the same page again.Some things are annoying. I don’t want to look at GPS when I’m in the car. I KNOW where to go and they always have their phones out showing me the “blue dot”. I draw the line where I draw the line. I also can take only so much tech talk and then I am exhausted so I have learned to be clear that it is time to stop when it is time to stop.For email we are on the family plan and that works fine for me. The email I had before wasn’t so great anyway.The VA has me set up with stuff to monitor my health. I key in data for them every day and I guess as a bonus they know I’m not on the floor if they’ve heard from me. I’m surrounded by technology none of which I use perfectly but the more I put up with it, the more access to reading material I have. I love reading and keeping informed. You’re not likely to see me on Facebook or Twitter (although my daughter has set up accounts for me) but I’m sucking what I can out of life while I’m still here.”