Are you thinking about giving mom and dad or grammy and grampa a digital device as a holiday gift? Great idea! I’ve been teaching technology classes in Adult Ed for the past two years and most of my students are 50 and over. As a rule, they love their devices because they want to stay connected to family and continue to contribute to their community. Also, they want to stay active. Some are even starting small businesses, while others love games and doing puzzles. Pick the right device and you are not only giving a gift of love but also of possibilities, and possibly longevity.
Picking the best device can be tricky. Here are 6 questions to ask yourself as you ponder your choices.
1. What will they use the device for? If it is for searching, connecting with friends and family, reading, taking pictures, then maybe they do not need a laptop or desktop. Perhaps a tablet is the best bet.
2. Think about eyesight, arthritis and other conditions that might impact their use of the device. Even though you create documentaries, read War and Peace, and compose music all on your smart phone, the keys and screen might be uncomfortably small for a Boomer or a Senior.
3. How comfortable is your recipient with technology? Did they use it in their work? How long ago? Which device will be the easiest for them to learn with their level of expertise? Consider whether or not the device is intuitive in its use or requires numerous patches and updates. Again, because using a particular device is second nature to you, it might not be for the recipient.
4. Do they travel–go somewhere warm for the winter? Sail in the summer? Go trekking through Asia? Which device will best serve their needs and be portable?
5. Might you be underestimating their capacity to learn? You might be thinking, mom loves to read so she’ll be happy with just a reader. It’s been my experience, once we Boomers and Seniors get started we are like sponges and want to learn more and more tips and tricks. Parents and grandparents soon learn that folks under 40 only respond to texts and not emails. So, they learn to text. Facebook is a favorite tool! Reconnecting with high school sweethearts or friends from the service, following the grandkids’ activities, and checking out organizations and businesses become part of the daily routine. Make sure the device you choose doesn’t limit future learning and fun.
6. Which device will allow your friend or family member to explore different aspects of their creativity? My cousin, the artist, continues to make art everyday. Sometimes she uses her iPhone or iPad to take photographs and then opens an app like Paper or Percolator and creates an entirely new image. Other friends inspired by Pinterest, try new crafts or re-imagine ones they have been doing for years.
It’s pretty obvious that I lean toward a tablet as an almost perfect gift. I will come clean and admit that my tablet of choice is an iPad. The folks in my classes love them. They email, text, check Facebook, take pictures and videos, plan trips, and play games. They also do their banking, keep their calendars and stay current with newspapers and books. Another cousin, Jean, said about her brand new iPad this summer, “It’s just opened up my life.” She researches everything she sees and stays in touch with family across the country. She’s wicked good at crosswords too.
One last thing to think about—are there adult ed classes or programs at senior centers or libraries nearby that offer classes in using technology? Include a brochure in the package just to give your loved one a head start.