Sunday, July 6, 2014

Better Late Than Never

My mum has always been wary of technology, but she is beginning to see the merits of being able to go online to keep in touch with the family, especially for the half a year she spends out in Osoyoos.


There was a computer in her and Dad's place for a while back in the late 90s, but it never really took; too many settings and menus and buttons and the like. Even the Surface tablet Tara showed her a few weeks ago had enough options to fill her with dread, but when I showed her a handful of functions on my iPad, she became very interested. So I interested, in fact, that she got me to order one for her, much to my surprise.


"I don't need anything fancy, and I won't be banking or credit cards or anything like that," she said. "If you could get me Scrabble and some crossword puzzles, I'd be grateful. Oh, and solitaire."


About two weeks later, the iPad arrived, and I began arranging her online accoutrements. Having never had an email account, I first needed to create one of those, which I did through Gmail. Next, her AppleID so she could download updates and purchase apps. When those were set up, I powered up the tablet and went through the setup procedures, and linked her Gmail account to the iPad's mail app.


Then it was time for the fun stuff. Scrabble was easy enough to find and download, and a quick perusal of the options made me think Crosswords was a good buy for $9.99, giving her access to a number of free daily crossword puzzles (including NY Times), and the ability to purchase more if needed. Some card games and Bejeweled for giggles, and the entertainment portion was sorted.


Mum's radio rarely leaves the CBC, so I got her both the CBC News and CBC Radio apps, as well as the Edmonton Journal. I bookmarked Environment Canada's forecasts for both Edmonton and Osoyoos in her browser, and set up the YouTube app so she can see things like Fenya's performances.


Having done all that, I scratched my head a little bit as I considered what to do next. Mum had all the music she wanted, and she wasn't terribly interested in movies any more. That didn't leave a whole lot, but on a hunch, I did some searching on the iTunes store anyway.


On Canada Day, a bunch of us gathered at Tara's place for smokies and salads and beers, and after we'd done a bit of that, I sat down with Mum at the kitchen table and introduced her to her new iPad. She was intimidated at first, but when I made it clear that there was very little she could do to it that couldn't easily be undone, and that short of dropping one (as I had done), they are pretty robust little things. Her biggest challenge was actually touching the screen, impeded as she is by her long fingernails, so a stylus will probably be in order.


I showed her how to read and send email, and share photos, and how to open the various other apps, she sent an email to Tara that simply said, "Look at me go!" which made me chuckle, and when Tara came in to give her enouragement, all Mum could say was, "Here I am learning all this at 74; why didn't I do this years ago?"


"Because the tools weren't as good and you were busy looking after Dad so much," I told her, "but I am so grateful you are doing it now. This is going to make keeping in touch and sharing bits of your grandkids' lives so much easier, you'll wonder how you ever did without it."


When we wrapped up, I pointed out the button for the Podcasts app. I had run the concept of podcasts to her previously, but without much of a response, when I pushed play and she heard the crackle of vintage radio and the ominously creaking door that preceded every episode of "The Inner Sanctum", her face lit up.


"I used to listen to this all the time, at night, when I was ten or twelve years old," she recounted with a grin. "But I would get scared, and I would have to go to the living room where Poppy was reading a book, and ask him to come in and sit with me so I could hear the ending and go to sleep."


"And did he?" I asked.


Mum nodded. "Every time."


I showed her the Podcast menu. "It looks like you an get quite a few episodes of Inner Sanctum on here, and I downloaded a couple to get you started. You've also got a couple of The Shadow, which I recall you liking, and Fibber McGee and Molly. If you think of anything else you'd like to hear from the period, let me know, and I will help you track them down."


She picked up the iPad, seeming to marvel at the opportunities it might present, but still a little uncertain, so I gave her a final reassurance. "Like I said, they are pretty tough to break in terms of their software, but if you get any emails from Nigerian princes looking to give you a percentage of a money transfer, don't reply to it."


She snorted, and said, "Even I know that much."


"You see? That puts you way ahead of the suckers that are that are still replying to those things. And I know we covered a lot of stuff tonight, and you are scared you're gonna forget it all, but don't worry," I said encouragingly, "It will come back sooner than you think, because they try to make it intuitive. And if you do get stuck, you can give me a call."


"I appreciate that," she said sincerely.


"But if you get scared listening to old radio shows, you're on your own. That's not covered on your service plan."




  1. A very familiar story as I went through the same thing with my 73 year old mother last Christmas when she thought she should have an iPad! Now she is all "oh I downloaded an app yesterday"

  2. Sean and Dad and I got Mom an iPad three or four years ago and it's been her constant companion ever since.