iPads are Great for Many Elderly Parents


by Kaye Swain

Great grandma enjoying pix of great grandchildren on her new iPad with fun apps and accessories for seniors AND kidsAs my senior mom and I are discovering, one of the frustrating things about aging is that health issues can definitely slow you down and keep you closer to home.

She has been wanting to visit at least some of her grandkids and great-grandchildren for over a year but health issues have kept rearing their ugly little heads and that has not been an option. Even her beloved walks outside have been curtailed due to extreme allergy issues that seem to be impacting her more than the rest of us.

We're grateful she's been able to get out and about to the store each week, giving her some fun outings. And the telephone is a wonderful blessing to her as she has enjoyed chatting with various loved ones. But overall, it has definitely been a couple of years full of frustrations.

Lately, though, she's feeling better. AND she has a new interest that is not only a good brain exercise for her and something different to work on. It's also helping to "fill the gaps" of some of the things she's really been missing.

Even though she has always been leery of any technology beyond her beloved CD player, and her 6-month attempt at learning to use a PC failed - over ten years ago, she decided to be brave and try the Apple iPad. She had enjoyed FaceTime on a cell phone with one great-grandchild but the screen was too small for her to comfortably enjoy. We'd been encouraging her to try it for several months to no avail. But one day, after another health dip, she decided to get one.

You should have seen her face when she was chatting with three great grandchildren she hadn't seen in a couple of years. She just beamed. And what a thrill to find out another set of great-grandkids have recently purchased an iPhone. She's already looking forward to more fun FaceTime chats in the coming weeks!

Of course, there's been quite a learning curve - for all of us. We learned one child at a time works much better on FaceTime. And picking the time best for her energy level and their school schedule can be quite a challenge. She's learned how to swipe photos back and forth and has well over a couple of thousand pictures she is thoroughly enjoying, with more added every week (by yours truly).

Every so often, we try a new app and decide how it will work for her. With some help, she can now listen to podcasts, including travelogues to old and new favorites as well as old-time radio shows like Father Knows Best and Jack Benny.

I've found fellow caregivers sharing tips online about how their senior parents are using it and getting more creative ideas. One elderly parent is even dealing with dementia symptoms and yet is able to enjoy the iPad.

My senior mom's health is back up again, better than ever, which gives her even more time and energy to learn new things on her iPad. And I'm happy to report she's continuing to use it, learning different things about it, and enjoying it a bit more every day.  Yes, it still intimidates her a tad. But she's realized how worthwhile it is for her to keep plugging away at it. And as she's learning, she's giving her brain an excellent "work out" as well as keeping her spirits up. It's definitely been a win-win for her - and for our family.

Kaye Swain is a member of the Sandwich Generation dealing with the issues of caring for the elderly parents and relatives in her family while also babysitting grandchildren. She enjoys writing on those topics at SandwichINK, in order to provide other multigenerational caregivers with useful information, resources and encouragement.