It was only six years ago that I decided to give my parents one of my old PCs and, since then, I’ve upgraded them by providing a new machine. Believe me, I didn’t leap into this lightly. I weighed the pros and cons, considering the issues of accessible support and whether my parents actually needed a PC.
Would introducing them to this technology cause them more frustration than anything else? I wasn’t all that worried about support, since, with years of experience, I felt totally qualified to handle it. As it turned out, I was mostly right.
My mother took to the machine with relative ease. She viewed it more as a simple communications tool. Her main use of it was for e-mail and some word processing. Pretty typical usage according to what information there is on the subject.
My father, on the other hand, presented me with a steeper learning curve. To be honest, it was more of a 45-degree angle than a curve. At 71 years of age, he wasn’t about to adapt to any new technology which didn’t prove to him beyond any doubt that he actually needed to use it. As he pointed out, it’s not as if the damn thing made toast or anything really useful.
What my dad needed was something to actually do on the computer to win him over. That turned out to be casino games. Not the real online gambling casinos, but the phoney-money, single-player casino games.
I was rather shocked one day when he called me to announce in a very serious tone that he had just lost over half a million dollars! There goes my inheritance, I thought. I was relieved when he admitted he was talking about the game and was disappointed that he really didn’t have that much money to lose.
Since the sudden passing of my mother in 2004, the PC has become a lifeline for him. My parents were married for close to 50 years and no more of a devoted husband ever lived.
Suddenly, he was totally alone and lost. His computer and Internet access helped him maintain connections with support resources and family members he would have been isolated from otherwise. It has allowed us to be here for him, even when we can’t be there for him.
If you are considering a PC or some other tech gift for an older parent, I can assure you that, in most cases, it’s a great idea. However, make sure they have the support options that will allow the intended users to enjoy it fully, with the least amount of fiddling required.
Get them a PC with a solid support package or, even better; make sure they have a friend or relative close at hand who knows their way around a computer and will be there when help is needed.
Or use a remote access program such as XP’s Remote Desktop, which will allow you to connect to another PC and control it. Also, be ready for those frustrated phone calls at any time of the day (or night).
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–Ducharme is the editor of PCWorld.ca.