I have always considered my mother’s lack of understanding of anything electronic rather interesting, especially since I don’t struggle with operating basic electronic devices such as TV’s, stereos and cell phones. I know that older generations (my mother was born in 1932) tend to have difficulties operating electronic equipment, but my mother is at an extreme. It surprised me when my mother requested a VCR back in the 80’s, because I assumed that using it would present a challenge for her. So I gave her one for Christmas, despite the fact that I doubted she would feel comfortable using it. She proved me right by immediately revealing to me that she did not comprehend the different control buttons, which then prompted me to patiently run through every function with her. When I would say, “Okay Mom, how about if you try to play a videotape?”, she would become frustrated and state that it was just too confusing to her.
The next thing I did was to write out detailed and numbered operation instructions on a large Post-It note which I then affixed to the top of the VCR. A week went by, and then I came over for a visit, during which I asked my mother how she was enjoying the VCR. She stated that she had not used it, that it was “too confusing” for her, and that she would just wait until I came over so that I could operate the VCR and we could watch movies together. My mom held onto that VCR for 20 years, and she never once used it on her own.
Shortly after my mother entered an assisted living facility in 2013, I was trying to figure out what type of phone to get her, and thought it would be cheaper and more convenient for her if I purchased a pre-paid cell phone as opposed to installing a land line in her room. After purchasing her first cell phone (two have stopped working over the years, and she is on her third phone), I braced myself for the cell phone training which I knew I had to put my mom through. Just as I had predicted, she had problems from day one with basic operations on the phone, and as a consequence, rarely, if ever, answers incoming calls or makes outbound calls.
Has anyone else dealt with elderly people who don’t seem to have any aptitude for electronic devices?