Archive for August, 2012

The Arrival of an iPad

It’s arrived!! At 10am on Thursday 16th August after a long labour, a new iPad weighing in at 1.44 pounds was delivered safely to my mother. I thought it was never going to happen because of all the problems we had with getting Mum a WiFi connection.

As mentioned in my last two posts, Digital Technology, Social Media and Older People and Ten Reasons Why iPads are Magic for Older People my 86 year old mother who  lives in a care home and has dementia, said she would like an iPad. Here is an update of how she is getting on.

Unfortunately the signal from the WiFi system at the care home did not reach Mum’s room so the manager had the whole system upgraded and still no luck. This went on so long that I carried out some research and bought her a MiFi for her room. This little darling effectively creates a a ‘hot spot’ for her WiFi connection. I also had to get a sim card, which I got from GiffGaff, both of which were recommended by ‘Mindings’ We leave the MiFi in the doc so it is always charged and ready to do its job.

Now Mindings is a little gem I found for Mum’s iPad, although this too has not been without it’s problems (the issues only relate to Apple products and the developer is working hard to iron them out) It is very much ‘work in progress’ but is brilliant for older people as it has been designed especially for them. Mindings enables you to send captioned photos, text messages, calendar reminders and social media content in a user friendly way for older people. It can be used with a  digital photo frame, a web browser on almost any PC or laptop or like Mum, you can run Mindings on an iPad.

Charging Mum’s iPad became an issue until I asked the Manager in her care home to include putting it on charge every night when they help Mum get ready for bed in her care plan. It  turns on and off instantly in the smart purple (Mums favourite colour) cover I purchased from at a third of the cost of an Apple cover.

Mum is understandably finding her new iPad easier to use when a member of staff or one of the family are able to do it with her. I keep reinforcing that she will not break it and she just has to press the home button if she gets stuck and start again. She will clearly take time to master her iPad independently but time is something she has plenty of living in a care home.

To make things easier I have only put Mindings on her main home screen. As soon as she understands how to use it, we will move on to help her understand the other apps, one at a time at a pace she can manage. I know she is looking forward to learning about Google Earth. This will enable Mum to revisit places she lived and went to school as a child, Jamaica where my parents lived for four years while my father was in charge of building the Jamaica Pegasus hotel, Australia where they visited many times to see family and friends and other places across the globe on their many holidays abroad, in Scotland and the UK.

Mum is also using her iPad to email the family, short messages. Imagine my surprise when I received an email from her asking what her Apple username and password was! I suspect she had someone with her when she sent it. When I asked her why she wanted it (well I was curious!) she couldn’t remember. The important thing is that she is having to stimulate her brain which provides important mental exercise.

My brother, sister and I, as well as her grandchildren, keep Mum’s calendar updated remotely and regularly send her text-o-grams and photos to keep her in touch and involved with our lives. I find the ability to send her text reminders especially useful.

Overall Mum is making good progress with her iPad and showing great interest in learning more. She has been blown away by its capabilities and loves the way it helps keep her keep in touch with our day to day lives. Digital technology is something we all take for granted to keep in touch with each other. I believe older people have been left out of the loop  far too long and I intend playing my part in helping them connect with others as a way of reducing loneliness and isolation. After all if older people who are housebound or live in a care home are unable to go out into the world any longer, we need to bring the world to them. iPad’s offer an opportunity to do just that.

Ten Reasons Why iPads are Magic for Older People

As you know I am a self confessed tech junkie and plan to purchase an iPad for my 86 year old mother who has dementia and lives in a care home. I have been having fun finding out about how iPads can be useful for older people and want to share my findings with you. In my next posts I will report the best apps I found for older people and keep you updated about how Mum gets on with her new ‘toy’, so watch this space.

Here are the reasons why I think iPads are good news for older people.

1. It’s really easy to use. Unlike a desktop computer or even a portable notebook, the wireless iPad bypasses the brain numbing computer learning curve.

2. It is totally wireless and easy for older people to handle. There is nothing to plug in other than the battery charger.

3. It is lightweight and easy to carry around. This makes it especially easy for older people with sore joints.

4. It has great accessibility, with no mouse or stylus to confuse older people.

5. It has a sensitive touch screen that lets older people, including those with minor disabilities access programmes and features easily.

6. There are no computer access codes and typed commands to remember.

7. There are a multitude of clever and useful applications (called Apps) that enable older people to: follow their favourite hobby or interest, explore areas they lived in or went to school as a child, make notes, communicate with family and friends including those living abroad or a long way away, call for help in an emergency, remember their medication, turn the alarm system to their house on and off, lift their mood, help them relax, improve their memory, track their health, read books and newspapers, play games, share photos with family and friends and there are many more. They can be easily downloaded directly onto the iPad. All you need to do is set up an account in iTunes for the older person to use. Most cost under £3 and many are free.

8. Reading can be made easier because text can be made bigger to help people with poor eyesight. In fact a German study found that older people are able to read faster using an iPad than a book.

9. Family members can manage the older person’s calendar remotely to keep their visits, appointments etc. up to date.

10. Family and friends can send text and picture messages and make our dominant means of communicating, accessible for older people.

For me, the most beneficial aspects of the iPad and the increasing number of apps suitable for older people that are being developed, is the creation of a new common ground between older people, their children, and their grandchildren and their ability to connect families living across across the globe in a way that would never have been possible a few years ago. This has to be good news!

Finally, I want my mother to have an iPad so that she can benefit from keeping in touch with us in real time, the same way we do with family and friends by sending texts, picture messages and emails on our mobile phones. I hope this will make her feel even more loved and valued than she already is.

Digital Technology, Social Media and Older People

Anyone who knows me, will know I am a gizmo diva. I love my gadgets. I find this amazing as I am useless at DIY and lack the desire and motivation to change the status quo. I consider myself a people person and the digital world enables me to connect with people all over the world. As I grow older (I am already of an age where I am described as a ‘pensioner’ Oh, how I hate labels!) I have come to the conclusion that my world will shrink and when that happens, my digital products will provide a lifeline for staying in touch with people wherever they are as well as maintaining my independence by shopping online etc.

I find it ironic that the technology that makes us better connected, is actually making older people (I am thinking of those in their 80s and 90s) more isolated and vulnerable. New technology offers great potential for social interaction and it is important that we find a way for older, older people to use on-line devices to connect and participate with the rest of us.

I am a huge Apple fan, a love affair that began when my sons bought me an iPod for Christmas a few years ago. I find the products intuitive and easy to use which is why I like them and why I believe they are suitable for many older people.

My iPod was put to good use when I was on holiday in Australia a couple of years ago. My cousin’s wife took me to visit her elderly mother who had Alzheimer’s and lived in a nursing home. As I have worked with older people for most of my working life and visited many care homes over the years, I was interested to see inside an Australian care home. 

We picked up her sister on the way and off we went. The elderly lady was bedridden, had lost her communication skills and didn’t recognise her daughters. When one of the nurses asked if she could have a word with them, I stayed with their mother. Not knowing this disengaged lady, I wondered how best to communicate with her after I had squeezed her arm gently, by way of introducing myself. Suddenly I remembered I had my iPod in my bag so I found some cheerful (country and western) music and put the earphones in her ears. When her daughters returned, they couldn’t believe the sight in front of them. Their mother was smiling and rocking her arms to the music with me. Music is a wonderful medium to use when verbal communication is difficult and iPods make it easy to store suitable playlists for everyone’s taste.

Now my iPad is one of my best friends and I use it daily, several times in fact. I took it with me on a recent visit to see my own 86 year old mother who has Dementia and lives in a care home, to show her some photographs. I saw her look at it wistfully as she reminded me that she had been a senior secretary when she was younger. I told her that an iPad is different to a typewriter and to demonstrate the point, gave it to her and suggested she type my name. I couldn’t believe my eyes as she typed ‘Christine’  exuding triumph with every tap. I found myself thinking, what a great way to connect older people who are lonely and isolated, to the digital world and social media.

I am now on a mission to get my mother an iPad and will let you know how we get on.

What challenges or successes have you had with an older person and digital technology? Do share them with our growing community.