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Old 04-26-2011, 12:33 PM
 
Location: Oxford, Ohio
901 posts, read 1,845,265 times
Reputation: 682

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Here's the basic situation: My father is 75 years old, and is in really good health for a man his age. Almost 2 years ago, he bought his first computer because he wanted to be able to do basic things like email, play card games, and read up on the sports news. He doesn't mess around with anything else on the computer, and only once a month he pays his bills online. For so long now I have been trying and trying to show him the basics of email....how to create one, how to hit the reply button when someone sends him one, where to place his cursor in text fields when he wants to type something, how to hit the send button, how to delete old emails, etc. It's all the basics that someone should have no problem picking up on, and I have all his programs set to auto update for him so he doesn't have to worry about that. By and large he doesn't have much trouble navigating the internet if he wants to look up something in a search engine. He knows how to check news websites. He knows how to watch videos. But almost 2 years later he's STILL asking me to show him how to do certain other things that I've shown him how to do multiple times. He even gets flustered when it comes to swiping his credit card at the grocery store, yet it's something I show him how to do every week when he goes shopping. Even going to an ATM bugs him, even though I've told him it's all straight-forward stuff that he simply has to read on the screen.

I understand that older adults have trouble learning computers, but is it normal for someone to have as much trouble doing certain things, while having no problems doing other things? He doesn't have any problems with his memory in general - not that he tells me about anyway, but I suspect he's fine. He remembers things from long ago as well as recently, even though there are times when he doesn't recall something being said to him. It's weird....almost like a selective memory where he remembers what he wants to remember. He's perfectly capable of finding his games on the laptop - even the card games he plays on game websites - and he knows how to listen to music on the computer, he knows how to operate the DVR, and he can use a microwave oven just fine. He remembers every other important thing that needs to be taken care of in his life.....he remembers when his bills are due, how much they should be and how to call the bank to check his account balances; he knows how to fix his own meals, take his own showers, how to shave, when to take his medications, how to call the pharmacy to use their automated system for refilling his prescriptions, etc. He remembers how to drive a car, how to start the lawnmower, how to FIX the lawnmower, how to do his own laundry, how to use a calculator, and on and on. But when it comes to something involving computers, he just gets lost and wants me to take care of things for him. Just a few minutes ago he said he got an email from my sister-in-law and wanted to respond to it...but doesn't remember how! This is something he has done many times before.

He's of sound mind in every other way - even to the extent that he is moving to Texas next month to live with his brother. He's selling his house (it's a mobile home) - completely aware of its value and what has to be done with respect to the paperwork involved when transferring the title...how to handle his insurance matters, etc. He's fully aware of what he's doing - he made the decision completely on his own, he hasn't been coerced. He's excited about it, and is aware of how much better things will be for him and all the possible things he will be able to do with my uncle. He knows he has to find a doctor, he knows he has to get his Texas drivers license, etc. I'm not moving with him, and so I'm starting to wonder how he's going to take care of all this computer stuff after he moves. I'll be on the other side of the country, and my uncle knows nothing about computers either.

Any thoughts? Should I tell him to simply get rid of the computer since it is such a troubling thing for him? Is it normal for an elderly man to have this much trouble remembering one particular aspect of his life?
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Old 04-26-2011, 01:14 PM
 
32,538 posts, read 26,766,455 times
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A couple of questions: Do YOU remember everything you're taught? Are there things you need help with?

Sounds like he's doing pretty well to me. You might notice that he has problems with ATMs. Probably because of his age. He's from the days of going into the bank, talking with the teller, making his deposit and getting his passbook stamped. A lot of seniors have particular problems with computers when it comes to money. Think about the specific things he has problems with. Are they all money oriented?

Rather than getting rid of his computer I'd introduce him to websites that concentrate on his interests: sports, history, whatever. Does he know how to watch youtube videos? I don't mean to sound mean or rude but I think you are concentrating too much on what he can't do and not enough on what he can. (Which is a lot!)

If he an his brother are more comfortable paying their bills with a check and snail mail, let them do that. Let him do what is easiest for him. (I took care of my elderly father, so I know what you're facing. Part of the trick is letting them feel like they're still in control. The computer probably makes him feel slightly out of control.)

BTW: I'm impressed that you care enough to worry about him and take the time to explain his problems. Good job. Hang in there!
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Old 04-26-2011, 01:25 PM
 
10,452 posts, read 9,508,393 times
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Sounds like he's fine. I'm training a woman on the computer and I train my mom on the computer, and both are a bit older, and sometimes they forget things but for the most part they remember things. It's just that computers have a new interface to them that many older generations just aren't used to whereas younger generations have pretty much grown up with computer interfaces so it's nothing new. Both my mom and this other lady have the hardest time with the layout. My mom gets confused with the scrollbars and back/forward buttons and the other lady forgets the sequence things go in (she's using the computer through a braille display which admittedly is a more confusing interface at first and requires the user to rely much more heavily on memory). To me it just sounds like a matter of being used to doing things one way and then having to switch how you do it. Even I had to switch from visual to audio to braille interface as I lost my sight and then my hearing and I would forget how to do things sometimes even after having done them a million times. Human memory, in people of any age, isn't perfect. It can be hard to remember anything at times. It doesn't sound like your father is going senile or anything to me.
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Old 04-26-2011, 01:26 PM
 
3,688 posts, read 9,475,490 times
Reputation: 6241
My father - highly educated man, of completely sound mind - who used DOS computers before he retired - used a typewriter to write all his documents.

When I bought them their first PC - maybe 12 years ago, we set up an e-mail account for them.

My mother learned how to use e-mail, with difficulty.

My father wanted to print out some labels - he sat down at the typewriter and I said - we can do that in MS Word dad...

and so began the painful process.....

it got to the point that my dad would make a neat list of everything he wanted a lable for, then wait for me to visit so I could go on the computer and make them.

I typed up instruction sheets, I had sheets of paper where I had the same word printed 25 different times in different font sizes and in different fonts so he'd be able to SEE the difference and pick what he wanted...

no matter...

He could do it with me standing over his shoulder, but with me gone - he just couldn't do it.

I assume even though he *loved* the output (the finished labels) he just had no real interest in learning HOW to make them..

My mother went on to mostly master e-mail, and even a little bit of internet surfing. She would print things out for my dad to read.

And no - they never mastered an ATM card. I have one for their account now (they are in their 80s and live with us now) and my mom calls it that "card" and has no idea how it works.

I wouldn't worry about your dad. Maybe e-mail is just not as important to him as minor internet surfing.

And here's my caveat - there are PLENTY of people who did not grow up with computers who are experts at them. My parents (and your father's) behavior is not necessarily typical. However, its not weird either -- people learn things there interested in. I like driving a car, but I can't explain to you how the internal combustion engine works.

Your dad might like the idea of e-mail, but not really care about the mechanics of using it.

nice of you to help out your dad... i'm sure he appreciates it, even if he occasionally drives you bonkers!
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Old 04-26-2011, 01:37 PM
 
10,452 posts, read 9,508,393 times
Reputation: 12484
Quote:
Originally Posted by Briolat21 View Post
My father - highly educated man, of completely sound mind - who used DOS computers before he retired - used a typewriter to write all his documents.

When I bought them their first PC - maybe 12 years ago, we set up an e-mail account for them.

My mother learned how to use e-mail, with difficulty.

My father wanted to print out some labels - he sat down at the typewriter and I said - we can do that in MS Word dad...

and so began the painful process.....

it got to the point that my dad would make a neat list of everything he wanted a lable for, then wait for me to visit so I could go on the computer and make them.

I typed up instruction sheets, I had sheets of paper where I had the same word printed 25 different times in different font sizes and in different fonts so he'd be able to SEE the difference and pick what he wanted...

no matter...

He could do it with me standing over his shoulder, but with me gone - he just couldn't do it.

I assume even though he *loved* the output (the finished labels) he just had no real interest in learning HOW to make them..

My mother went on to mostly master e-mail, and even a little bit of internet surfing. She would print things out for my dad to read.

And no - they never mastered an ATM card. I have one for their account now (they are in their 80s and live with us now) and my mom calls it that "card" and has no idea how it works.

I wouldn't worry about your dad. Maybe e-mail is just not as important to him as minor internet surfing.

And here's my caveat - there are PLENTY of people who did not grow up with computers who are experts at them. My parents (and your father's) behavior is not necessarily typical. However, its not weird either -- people learn things there interested in. I like driving a car, but I can't explain to you how the internal combustion engine works.

Your dad might like the idea of e-mail, but not really care about the mechanics of using it.

nice of you to help out your dad... i'm sure he appreciates it, even if he occasionally drives you bonkers!
That's true too. I know someone who's 62 and is as if not more adept at using the iPhone than I am at 21. I also know someone who is 68 years old who uses a computer effortlessly through a braille display, which most people can't even do. With a braille display you aren't seeing the whole screen at once--you literally see 1-5 elements at a time (depending on the size of your braille display and how long each element is), so you have to have hold a mental image or sequence of all the elements on the entire screen in your head at all times to navigate around. Being able to do that at 68 is pretty impressive IMO. Computer interfaces aren't completely unavailable to people of older generations but I do find that as a general trend, it requires more effort on their part to grasp computer interfaces than it does younger people who have grown up their whole lives with a computer. For example, I started using a computer at 8. My mom started using a computer around age 50. That age gap in terms of when you are first introduced to a computer makes a difference. Generally speaking, older people have to have a strong drive to use a computer to learn it successfully than younger people.
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Old 04-26-2011, 01:37 PM
 
Location: Mostly in my head
18,895 posts, read 49,748,977 times
Reputation: 16812
Memory loss begins with current events as the brain can no longer process events correctly to lay down the memory. Old memories persist far after senility is apparent b/c they were formed when the brain was working properly. If he is remembering what he wants to these days, and not the other stuff, he just may be practicing 'selective memory" which many, many of us do.
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Old 04-26-2011, 01:42 PM
 
Location: So. of Rosarito, Baja, Mexico
6,476 posts, read 16,784,994 times
Reputation: 5733
I'm going to defend the young old man (he's younger then me).

We get set in some of our old ways and some things are just NOT that big of thing to remember.

I'm educated (degreed) and former business owner of 36 yrs past and still today have some small thing that cannot get thru my brain. I stare at the problem but still will not register...only a dead spot in the brain. No matter how long I look...nothing registers.

I would not worry about his situation. We are both alike to some degree..he has his and I have mine.

Relax...it comes with age. Steve
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Old 04-26-2011, 01:46 PM
 
Location: Beautiful Rhode Island
5,748 posts, read 9,480,455 times
Reputation: 5222
Could you post simple instructions on how to respond to a email right next to or on his computer?

It's also possible, of course, that he's using this as a way to keep in touch with you- a lot of older people worry about being abandoned by their children.
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Old 04-26-2011, 04:07 PM
 
Location: home state of Myrtle Beach!
6,154 posts, read 16,955,680 times
Reputation: 3308
When your father moves encourage him or find for him yourself a Senior Citizens group he can get involved with. Sometimes they have computer classes on just the basics and this might be good for him to attend. My father has problems with the same things over and over again too. One of these is attaching documents to an email. It may be that there are too many steps to email but it will probably become more important to him once he moves so he can continue to communicate with you too. Type out instructions and laminate the page so that it is heavy and won't get destroyed. Give him a folder of "instructions" for the different things he does. You might want to now think about remotely accessing his computer when he moves too.
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Old 04-26-2011, 07:10 PM
 
Location: Oxford, Ohio
901 posts, read 1,845,265 times
Reputation: 682
I'm so incredibly grateful for ALL the responses I've gotten in this thread. Thank you ALL so much for the encouragement. I appreciate it. It helps me to relax knowing that this is basically, from what I'm reading here, a pretty normal thing. Reps to you all. God Bless!
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