“Out with the old and in with the new” shouldn’t be something we think of when talking about grandparents and technology.
For our grandparents, learning new technology late in life can be extremely daunting, but showing them how simple it is to learn not only benefits their lives, but is a great experience to go through as a family. At first, my 86-year old grandma felt as though it was impossible to learn how to use her computer—now she’s better than my parents and bragging about it!
My grandma proudly uses her email, Microsoft Word and Skype to communicate with her grandchildren in ways even my parents have not yet learned to, and it’s something we have definitely bonded over.
Here are three must-have programs that are easy for grandparents to learn and use, and will revolutionize the way your family communicates:
Email and Instant Messaging
Gmail’s email and instant messaging services are designed to be simple and logical, making it very easy for grandparents to learn and operate. Gmail not only completely changed how my grandma talked to us, but changed the kind of conversations we had, as well.
By learning how to email and instant message on Gmail, my grandma realized she was using a medium of communication that her grandchildren were using throughout their days. The benefit of this is that neither of you have to go too far out of your way to check in or update each other on what’s going on. Often, my Grandma will message me during the day and by the time I talk to her on the phone, we’re able to cut through the small talk and have a more meaningful conversation.
Learning how to use Microsoft Word or any other word processing program could revolutionize a grandparent’s relationship with their family! After learning how to use Word, my grandma was able to sit down and record stories she would like to share with us. Reading a first-hand account of your grandparent’s experience changes a grandchild’s perspective on their grandparents and their family. Not only do you now have history documented, but you have something to instigate really stimulating conversation.
Although Word comes with an assortment of intimidating bells and whistles, basic letter writing or story writing can be incredibly simple. A great alternative is the easy and free Google Docs offered through Gmail. Not only is it even more stripped down than Microsoft Word, but a grandparent can easily share what they’ve written with their family—no file attaching needed!
For grandparents who prefer to talk face-to-face this is the ultimate solution for far-flung families. Skype is extremely user-friendly and allows families to enjoy each other’s company via video chatting. Not only is a video chat much more engaging than a regular telephone call, but it is pretty funny to watch grandparents experience this for the first time as it really is something straight out of the Jetson’s.
In order to make video chatting as easy as possible, create their account for them using the same screen name as their email. Another trick would be to leave the program running, that way they don’t have to log in and you can do all the work of starting the video chat. Then all they have to do is click “answer” when your call pops up on the screen.
However daunting it may seem to them, with a little coaching the older adults in your life will be using useful and fun programs in no time. Plus, it’s an opportunity to bond in new ways. Getting our grandparents acclimated to this tech-savvy age expands the ways we communicate as a family, and enables our grandparents to express themselves in new ways.