Let me share a tale of William, the Elder (my father, aged 84) and William, the Younger (my nephew, aged 8).
Since putting his toe in the world of computers a little while ago, William, the Elder has decided he is fundamentally stupid.
Computers have him almost completely stumped. It is an all-too-familiar sad tale.
Dad needs to type correspondence, draft ANZAC Day programs, send and receive emails and wants to enjoy the many FB and blog offerings of his grandkids. We gave him a second-hand laptop recently to use in his cluttered little home-office. Oh dear.
After us carefully setting everything up, I’m beginning to wonder if maybe we have only succeeded in setting him up (…to fail, that is)!
Despite purchasing various thick manuals ‘for dummies’; listening to countless explanations of how this stuff works; taking copious notes when guided through a process and referring to them studiously – the man literally tears-up in frustration when he encounters yet another mysterious road-block on his journey into the promised cyber-land he constantly hears others sharing and enthusing about.
I am frustrated too. How to get through to him? He is clearly motivated. He wants to learn. He tries hard. But I am beginning to wonder if the pain-to-gain ratio is worth it.
He is convinced he is stupid. He isn’t.
William, the Younger is not stupid either, but he recently encountered a baffling moment with technology. And it helped me to show dad that lack of intelligence is not his problem.
William, the Younger discovered an ancient artefact in his father’s car glovebox – a cassette!
“Oh that’s a cassette tape.”
“What does it do?”
“It has tape inside it with music recorded on it, so I can listen to music in the car.”
“How does it work?”
“Put it in that little slot there and you’ll see.”
A few minutes of fumbling and mumbling and the cassette slides smoothly in and numbers light up, indicating minutes and seconds.
“Nothing is happening.”
“Oh, it must be the end of that side. Turn the tape over.”
William, the Elder and William, the Younger, on encountering an undiscovered country for the first time, were similarly stumped. William, the Young didn’t care much – for him, it was a bizarre, yet fascinating little moment. William, the Old cares a lot – his usefulness, currency, intelligence, confidence, etc, etc, etc are all challenged and he is found wanting.
And he hasn’t even begun to experience the magical world of portable, touch-screen devices now available!
So, what am I to do? Give up? Encourage him to give up? I don’t know.
No. I’m not prepared to give up just yet.
I am an Accessibility Ambassador. Accessibility is built into Apple devices. Accessibility is in the company’s DNA. Accessibility is needed not only by the physically and intellectually impaired; but also, by those whose agility, flexibility and teachability are impaired by age.
The difficulties encountered by the elderly when attempting to access digital technology must surely be a worthy area of concern and attention.
Pondering some options!