How to Get Your Grandma A Computer

My Grandmother recycles her dental floss.  She makes “Surprise Casseroles” with every item in the fridge that is going to expire last week.   Grandma Dee grew up during the Depression…on a meager farm…with my Great Grandmother, which according to my dad that was the real tough part.  This has made her a tough, spendthrift and eccentric old lady.

I use the word ‘old’ grudgingly because I sometimes forget that my Grandmother does in fact fall into that category.  She is a 25 year-old spirit in a 70 year-old women’s body.  When my Grandfather passed away this year from cancer he left my Grandmother with an empty condo and a whole lot of time.

Dee is a voracious reader and we all save National Geographic’s, Time’s and Newsweek’s for her when we come to visit.   Yet, after each check-in call I had with her, I couldn’t help but think how much more she could read if she had the Internet, if she could email us and video chat instead of just calling.  I am a professional blogger, the Internet is my life and my Grandma didn’t even have a computer!

With the generous donation of my boyfriend’s old Mac Laptop, we set out one Sunday morning to get Grandma Dee online. First, if you are going to get your Grandma a computer I highly recommend doing some prep work before even lugging it up her steps.  We spent the days before Dee-Day, virus proofing the hard-drive, removing confusing icons from the dock and thinking of every widget she might like to have in her dashboard.  We also set-up her Gmail account with a reader and a catchy grandma-y email address and password she would remember.

That morning (this has been on her schedule for 6 weeks), we struggled up her front steps with extra cords, a bag, a mouse and a lot of hope.  After 20 minutes of pounding on the windows—she only has 30% hearing in one ear, making a trip to Best Buy for a Router (and a VCR remote because hers was broken and she needed to fix that too), going through her other ‘Grand Kid House Repair List’, and having a 45 minute phone call with Time Warner, we were online.  Second tip for wannabe grandkid computer buyers—plan for triple the time you think you will need.

The hardest part of the whole morning was not what I had expected.  I had assumed I would be fielding questions about predators, spammers and viruses.  Yet, this did not seem to concern my Grandma at all, in fact her first question was, “Can I change the picture on my desktop.”  She also demanded that we put a larger calculator on her Dashboard and wanted to know how she could play free games like Solitaire and Scrabble.

Besides these easy requests, the majority of our time was spent trying to explain concepts that I did not realize were even concepts. For example, how would you respond to these?

“Where do I type?”

“I understand that an email is like a mail in the air, but how many days will it take to get there?”

“What is a widget?”

Or my exasperated responses:

“Yes, I swear, a laptop will still work even if it is not plugged in.”

“A mouse is like…a hand for the computer?”

“The articles on NationalGeographic.com and in the magazine are different and the same, but there are more, and sometimes less, and…”

These things come second nature to me and I had a very hard time explaining them.  It took a few hours and a bunch of follow up calls, but she seems to be working well.  She sent me an email before we even got back home and exclaimed, “OH! You already got it!” When I called the next day.

I left her with a list of every family member’s email.  I decided to get back at my sister for the years I had to change her diaper and starred her new college email for my Grandma. In addition I made sure to tell her that my sister had tons of extra time now that she was away from home and would love a daily email.  I am sure the rest of the family is now grumbling that my Grandmother has now figured out the ‘forward’ button and the power of puppy picture chain emails.

I felt really good while I gathered up my things and laughed while she watched Youtube videos and decided which subscriptions to add to her Google Reader.  For me, I felt like I had bonded with her, gotten a new perspective on how lucky I am to have my computer and was reminded how funny she is.  I know for Grandma she can better keep in touch with family and friends, plus she gets to read and play games to her heart’s content.

I patted myself on the back for bringing technology to another household in need and hugged Grandma goodbye. She waved and asked as I was walking out the door,

“Oh, I wanted to ask you. If I want to type something up, do you think Office Depot still has typewriters?”

It might be another few lessons…

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