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Author Topic: Computer for a 76-year old PC-phobic grandma? :)  (Read 2440 times)
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Blackjack
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« on: July 18, 2012, 05:02:32 PM »

So my 76-year old mom has finally hit the frustration point with her dialup Internet (a service called Purespeed, which took over accounts from the smoother Tidalwave I initially had her signed to when she retired from teaching DOD schools in Korea and moved back here to Va.).

She's mostly been using hand-me down PCs from me, aside from a Micro Center Windows ME special she used for a while. She's now using my 2004-era Compaq. While it's decent, it's Windows XP, has a lot of crap on it I haven't quite been able to clean out (thus she gets some weird status and "take action" messages that confuse here).

And the dial-up had just become increasingly exasperating, esp. if someone tries to e-mail her photos, or a spam has images in it -- it just takes forever, and ever for the e-mail client to download the e-mail.

Anyway, after years of me begging her to, she finally seems responsive to letting me get her a new computer, and also hopefully switching to Cox cable Internet (which I've had since about 2003, and have been really happy with).

I'm also probably going to replace her Cannon bubblet jet (1992 era) printer, which is also a hand-me down from me.
=============

All she really needs a computer for is:
*e-mail
*basic web browsing (she's less into it for fun or even research, than occasional stuff like paying taxes online, and saving/printing tax forms etc. obtained online)
*printing e-mails, documents and sometimes web pages
*wiewing photos/videos sent by me and my brother's family might interest her, but she doesn't much like to sit in front of the computer for long.

Many all-in-one PCs have touch-screen options, but most of the ones I've tried in stores haven't really impressed me in terms of responsiveness or ease-of-use.

A part of me would love to get her an iPad. Whenever she fiddles with mine, all the phobias and sometimes confusion she has with her PC go away. I still feel like I'd need to get her a basic PC w/ WiFi router to make that work (I think she'd blanche at 3G monthly fees). Alas, she has pretty long fingernails, and honestly, I'm not sure she'd be comfortable with touch screens because of that.

While a laptop is certainly an option, her vision (farsighted) is pretty poor. She does like using my hand-me-down 19" Samsung LCD, and I think I'd be inclined for her to keep using that or some sort of all-in-one that has a monitor at least that size.
============

I'm babbling.  icon_smile I really just wanted to ask folks here if you maybe have parents/grandparents my mom's age that are sort of computer-phobic but have found something they're comfortable using?

Any ideas/suggestions welcome. I'm certainly open to moving her to Macs but I'm fine sticking with Windows 7, given that's the type of OS I'm most familiar with.

I do know she hates using a mouse, and my attempts to get her to understand right-click menus in Windows have failed, despite a couple "understanding Windows in plain English" books.
« Last Edit: July 18, 2012, 05:07:10 PM by Blackjack » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: July 18, 2012, 06:49:48 PM »

Mouse-click explanation:

LEFT Mouse button: DO THIS.
RIGHT Mouse button: What can I do with this?
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« Reply #2 on: July 18, 2012, 07:03:51 PM »

Quote from: Blackjack on July 18, 2012, 05:02:32 PM

A part of me would love to get her an iPad. Whenever she fiddles with mine, all the phobias and sometimes confusion she has with her PC go away. I still feel like I'd need to get her a basic PC w/ WiFi router to make that work (I think she'd blanche at 3G monthly fees). Alas, she has pretty long fingernails, and honestly, I'm not sure she'd be comfortable with touch screens because of that.

This. Just get her an iPad. Seriously, if all she is doing is emails and web browsing, there's not really a need for a full on PC.  As an added bonus, you won't have to worry about malware nearly as much.

If you really, really feel the need to get a PC of some kind, get her an older Mac. If she already feels at home (in a sense) with iOS, she'll likely feel at home with OSX.
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« Reply #3 on: July 18, 2012, 07:09:14 PM »

I'd say go the iPad route if she seems more comfortable with it and set up a cheap PC for anything that she cannot do on the iPad.
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Hrothgar
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« Reply #4 on: July 19, 2012, 07:55:58 PM »

You could get her a WOW computer.  It sound kind of like what you want.  Plus you could say Grandma is using Linux.
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« Reply #5 on: July 19, 2012, 08:04:17 PM »

If she knows how to use a computer (despite being phobic) stick with that.   I tried going the iPad route with my computer-phobic mom, but she found it far more frustrating than her computer.... the touchscreen keyboard in particular was a source of annoyance.
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« Reply #6 on: July 19, 2012, 10:04:26 PM »

For my mom, who tends to have very cold fingers and touchscreens don't work well, I got her a touchscreen stylus for her Kindle Fire and she loves it.  Just be sure to check reviews on them, it seems some work much better than others.
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« Reply #7 on: July 19, 2012, 11:54:23 PM »

I'd say iPad with bluetooth keyboard and airprint photo printer (and Cox + WiFi setup).

Don't get a touchscreen PC.  Try using one for 10 minutes, and you'll find that the touchscreen is an ergonomic nightmare because it has to be in arm's reach to be worth it.
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« Reply #8 on: July 25, 2012, 04:40:02 AM »

We got my mother-in-law an iPad recently and she is really enjoying it. She had talked about wanting a computer for years, but won't read instructions, so things have to be relatively self-explanatory. Now she wants an iPhone too.
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« Reply #9 on: July 25, 2012, 06:54:07 AM »

Quote from: Misguided on July 25, 2012, 04:40:02 AM

We got my mother-in-law an iPad recently and she is really enjoying it. She had talked about wanting a computer for years, but won't read instructions, so things have to be relatively self-explanatory. Now she wants an iPhone too.

I love the simplicity with apple products. My buddies 3 yr old figured out the iPad when she was 2...
That says it all!
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« Reply #10 on: July 25, 2012, 05:12:28 PM »

My two year old has figured out the ipad, iphone, the harmony remote control, leapster, leappad, navigating the Disney junior website, windows phone 7, my old palm pre, my android phone, and the chumby on my desk.  Two year olds love to learn and explore new things.  This might not be true with all 76 year olds.  I like Apple, but they don't have a lock on easy to use (especially in the eyes of a two year old).  She actually has the hardest time using the iphone since my wife's work requires a passcode.  Two year olds have a tough time with six digit numbers.
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« Reply #11 on: July 26, 2012, 03:22:38 AM »

Quote from: Hrothgar on July 25, 2012, 05:12:28 PM

My two year old has figured out the ipad, iphone, the harmony remote control, leapster, leappad, navigating the Disney junior website, windows phone 7, my old palm pre, my android phone, and the chumby on my desk.  Two year olds love to learn and explore new things.  This might not be true with all 76 year olds.  I like Apple, but they don't have a lock on easy to use (especially in the eyes of a two year old).  She actually has the hardest time using the iphone since my wife's work requires a passcode.  Two year olds have a tough time with six digit numbers.

Interesting outlook.
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Blackjack
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« Reply #12 on: July 26, 2012, 12:52:41 PM »

Quote from: Laner on July 19, 2012, 08:04:17 PM

If she knows how to use a computer (despite being phobic) stick with that.   I tried going the iPad route with my computer-phobic mom, but she found it far more frustrating than her computer.... the touchscreen keyboard in particular was a source of annoyance.
I've found Apple's Bluetooth wireless keyboard very comfortable (I'm using it right now or this post), and would probably set that up if I went the iPad route.

The problem is, I'd probably have to get some sort of wireless printer (she prints quite a lot, and is currently using a 1992-era Canon bubblejet hand-me-down from me.

I think I mentioned her fingernails are simply too long to use a touchscreen very comfortably. She can use it better in her lap, but after she almost let my new iPad crash on a hardwood floor, I decided that's not a good thing for her. Or me.  icon_eek icon_smile

For now I tweaked some things on the old PC. The dialup connection is still acting strange. Sometimes it works fine, other times, the connection seems to "time out" while checking e-mail, even though it's technically still connected. The workaround is just to exit Outlook Express and restart the program.

The WoW thing is a  possibility. It's just, if she bundles with Cox that'll include various security software that only works on PR or Apple.

Getting a Mac Mini and just plugging the old LCD monitor (which is a good 19") might work though I doubt there's any Mac driver for a 1992 Cannon printer. If I get her something new, whether PC or Mac, I think I'd just prefer it be some sort of all-in-one and then I'll take the LCD to a PC parts recycling center in the area.

Thanks for chiming in with thoughts. We'll see where we go from here.
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« Reply #13 on: July 26, 2012, 05:09:55 PM »

I was doing some searches and here's another computer billed as "for seniors." I've seen these jumbo-size letter keyboards in catalogs. I've considered getting her one of those, though I think she types more by feel than by looking at the letters.

A Plus Senior Computers
http://www.aplusseniorcomputer.com/
*These seem to be Windows 7 computers (a 23" touchscreen desktop, some smaller non-touchscreens and a couple laptops) with a customized start-up display they call "Senior Place" (rather than Linux like the WOW).

While my mom would blanche at the cost of the top model, I don't have to share that number with her.  icon_smile
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« Reply #14 on: October 01, 2012, 03:15:21 PM »

A little bump here as my mom looks to be close to switching to a Cox cable bundle and finally joining the non-dialup Internet access crowd. I've just asked her to give me enough warning so i can set up her up on something new, whether it's a desktop, laptop, Mac, or one of these funky things we've discussed here more targed to seniors.
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« Reply #15 on: October 01, 2012, 04:48:41 PM »

There are ipad cases that can assuage the fear of dropsies. I think the iPad is still your best bet. My mom and my aunt just got new iPads a couple of weeks ago and it's like they leapfrogged a decade or two of telecommunications overnight.
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« Reply #16 on: October 05, 2012, 09:08:45 PM »

Why not just wipe the Compaq and install a fresh copy of Windows XP on it? That'll likely fix all the issues she's having. The computer's plenty fast enough to do what she does.
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« Reply #17 on: June 17, 2015, 01:45:29 PM »

Say hello to my now 79-year-old mom's new computer, which I got from Micro Center yesterday:

Asus Zenbook UX305 (the cheaper $699 1920X1080 rez version):
https://www.asus.com/Notebooks_Ultrabooks/ASUS_ZENBOOK_UX305/

My Asus gaming PC has really sold me on solid state drives so I wanted to get her one that had that. This model is fanless, so it generates no noise whatsoever (she's got enough things buzzing in her house already). The matte black screen makes it essentially immune to glare from sun and obnoxious lights, and our old house is full of the latter.

This isn't a touchscreen model. I looked at a $899 model that adds a touchscreen, Gorilla glass screen and backlighting but was surprised to generally read more complaints about that model. My mom has gnarly fingernails and just seems to lack "finger precision" when it comes to touchscreens. Got her a wireless mouse instead.

For all the grief Windows 8 (8.1 on this) gets, I like the Tile system for her. I spent hours yesterday (I'm on vacation this week, but yesterday felt like work) just configuring and resizing tiles she can click to the handful of programs she uses, including ancient Yeah Write by the original makers of WordPerfect. I was able to move over her old emails and address book from Outlook Express though she's carping about Windows Live Mail looking different.

I got her indocrinated on using it last night. While her rusty mouse skills need some work, and I need to tweak mouse sensitivity/speed settings more (she maneuvers her mouse like a drunken sailor  icon_razz), I think she liked using the laptop right away. I also spent a lot of time upsizing fonts and adjusting the default IE zoom setting to accommodate her poor vision. While Windows 8 has a cool magnifying glass feature, I don't find it intuitive how to toggle OFF the magnifier so I don't know that she'd be at ease using it.

While I think it's a wonderful laptop, steal for the price, I wouldn't recommend it for gaming since it uses a low-energy Intel Core M processor. This gives it terrific battery life (rated up to 10 hours, I suspect real-world use maybe closer to like 8 or so) but not going to tackle higher end games and stuff. Other pricier Zenbooks use Core i7 and the like but the battery life seems quite a bit shorter. I think this would be ideal for students and biz folks who travel a lot, just so easy to carry.


For all this I have to thank the latest disastrous owner of her dialup service she'd used since 2000. The once fine local service was acquired by Purespeed Internet about 10 years ago, and her dial-up speed gradually declined from acceptable (about 43-48K via her 56K-rated modem) to sluggish (like 14,400 speeds) to unaccepable (7,200 at last measure). Latest owner DelMarva Online of Maryland stopped providing live tech support for dial-up accounts recently, and her email stopped working. I tried all sorts of experiments on the hand-me down PC she was using (my old 2004 Compaq on Windows XP) and failed. Nobody answers their phones, and she's sending snail mail to see if she can officially cancel her account.

So I finally said the heck with it, and we went to a Cox Cable store to add the lowest cost cable internet option to her bundle. Technically she'll get a $19.99/mo price for a year, which is pretty outstanding, even for the low-end tier.

Had a bit of a Marty Mcfly listening to Doc Brown encounter with the Cox rep, who was trying to explain to me how to connect a router to her existing cable phone modem (which is also an Internet modem - he just needed to send it an 'enable' commend from the office) to add Wi-Fi. They had a Netgear brand there on sale (which is my favorite router brand now due to ease of installation) so I got that set up and for now at least she'll just connect wirelessly via the laptop.

She had the old PC set up in an upstairs bedroom that was just always too hot in summer and too cold in winter. So I think she's happy this laptop is so light she can just move it wherever she wants. I'm desperately trying to convince her to let us get her a very modest desk that maybe has an adjustable height (her scoliosis is making her shorter than she already is). We just literally don't have a desk or table that's the right height for her to comfortably use a computer of any kind.

And when she argued in favor of me getting a used PC or giving her another hand-me-down or apparently some garbage out of the dumpster  icon_razz, I said "NO! Let me pick out something I think you'll enjoy using!" icon_smile Now I looked at many different models and brands, and originally I wanted to get her a 15-17" screen, thinking it'd be easier on her eyes. But this 13.3", with the font and zoom settings adjusted, works well for her. I only wish MS let us upsize the text on the tiles is all. She seems fine with it, and I think she's getting used to the idea of focusing on the icon visuals on the tiles, rather than the images.  icon_smile
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Blackjack
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« Reply #18 on: June 17, 2015, 01:59:44 PM »

Some pix:

Da box


Da box within da box  icon_smile


Unboxing. While the aluminum is cool-looking, it picks up fingerprints like a... well, magnet.  icon_razz

*NOTE: Because it doesn't have an ethernet port, the box includes a USB ethernet port adapter in case you need to connect directly rather than WiFi.

While it's certainly MacBook Air inspired/clone-ish, it's very generous with ports -- three USB 3.0 ports (one right side; two on left), a micro HDMI and an SD card reader. And a USB ethernet adapter in the box (per above).


Excellent chicket-style full-size keyboard (my mom was comfortable typing on it right away; as was I  icon_smile). She had used my wireless Apple keyboard a bit other day when I brought my iPad over -- this convinced me she'd like the Asus's similar keyboard design.

*Some keyboard points may turn some folks off -- the power button is tucked in the right corner rather than separate. fwiw, she and I in heavy use yesterday, and she's using it today, have never accidentally hit the power button.

And the cursor keys and delete key are much tinier than on the Logitech illuminated I use at home. I don't use DEL that much or cursor keys for that matter but could be an issue if you use those often.

As far as heat issues in a fanless laptop design -- I had it on and charging at home for maybe 5 hours or so yesterday afternoon. It did for a time get a little bit heavy-warm on the bottom backside, but the lid, keyboard and front touchpad side kept cool. I doubt it'll be any sort of issue for my mom for the modest things she'll use it for.

If I've created a monster and she starts using it for heavy-gaming, then we might need to invite in a pad with fans in it but would defeat the purpose of a fanless, quite design imho.  icon_razz
« Last Edit: June 17, 2015, 02:08:12 PM by Blackjack » Logged

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