Keeping up with the times is tough for the elderly, especially when in the past, saving your precious memories has always meant packing photos and letters away in the attic. The words ‘digital data’ and ‘data storage’ aren’t in the elderly’s vocabulary. But times they are a changing! My mom, who turned 89 this year, has a computer, and wants to learn about emailing. Well, hold on to your knickers mom, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!
When you look into the sky and see beautiful white shapes moving across a blue canvas, you typically think, oh the clouds are so pretty; what a beautiful day we’re having! Soft white clouds in the sky usually provide a sense of peace and tranquility. However, the opposite is a frightening feeling that is experienced when seeing dark storm clouds racing toward you with lightning and thunder crashing in the distance.
In the spring, my 89 year old mom will sit on her porch for hours on a partly cloudy day. She enjoys every minute watching the clouds change shape, and feeling the light breeze on her face. This gives her peace, and she looks forward to having another day just like today. But if tomorrow brings a thunderstorm, she sits in her reclining chair in her living room, phoning all of her children to make sure they are safe from Mother Nature’s wrath.
So, imagine the day that I tried to explain to my mom about cloud storage! Well, it really wasn’t explained in a day, but this is how it started. I try to explain the functionality of cloud computing. My mom says: ‘Katrina!” (she always calls me Katrina when she’s frustrated with me or I’m in trouble for something) “You’re telling me that my pictures and emails are stored in a cloud? How can that be? Does God take care of my information?” I know it sounds crazy, but remember, she’s 89 years old.
Explaining to my mom that her pictures and email are ‘data’ and a hosting company stores her data on multiple ‘servers’ that span several locations didn’t go over well. She looked at me like I was an alien from another planet! All she said to me was “Oh My Glory”! Unfortunately, it sounded like she was giving up before she started learning. I held her hand and told her that I would walk her through everything until she was comfortable doing it on her own.
Fast forward 1 year later, my mom no longer owns a computer; she gave it to her grandson who is tickled pink to have a computer that’s rarely been used. She decided that it was too late in life to learn all the new things that a computer required her to learn. I was sad to hear that she gave up; I thought so many times “I think she’s got it”! But because I’ve worked on computers for most of my life, I guess I didn’t really understand her point of view.
Working with my mom helped me realize that a training strategy should be developed with the audience’s needs and abilities in mind. There are unique obstacles to teaching technology to a generation that has always run from a mouse, instead of holding a mouse in their hand to manage a computer. With gentle, patient, and creative guidance most elderly people can learn to use a computer using 10 basic tips.