My Mother the Internet Channel - One Senior's Computer Experience
My mother is an Internet channel, a broadband information carrier, a guru of desktop navigability. She has no computer, no laptop, no cell phone. Her only hands-on experiences with these technologies are playing computer solitaire at her local senior citizens center and talking on my cell phone, but only if I dial the number for her. Despite her lack of hands-on experience, she is a great information provider about what's on the web, where to find it, how to find it, and what I should do with it.
As Shocking as Four-letter Words
Recently, my mother called to tell me about a possible funding source for women entrepreneurs who want to start new businesses.
She said, "Go to ‘ww' [not ‘www', mind you] dot xxxyyyyzzzz [I don't recall the company's URL] dot c-o-m [she didn't say ‘com', she spelled it out] and scroll down the page and click the green dollar sign icon. You can apply for money when you get to the next page."
I never heard her talk like that. I was nearly as shocked as if she had told me a dirty joke full of clearly enunciated four-letter words. Scroll? Icon? Page? I was speechless.
"Surprised?" she said.
My mother surprises me often. She is well-read, listens addictively to radio talk shows, watches foreign and domestic news religiously, subscribes to several timely publications, scours the local daily newspapers, and converses avidly with friends and family about politics, current events, and health issues. Her discourse is backed by fact, propelled by tenacity, and delivered with the agility and surprise of the one-two punch. She always has something timely and informative, and usually surprising, to share.
But I didn't know she was learning to speak Computerese.
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Uprising at the Senior Center
Not too long thereafter, she called to tell me that no one at the senior center, neither seniors nor office staff, could find the solitaire game icon on any of the desktops. Upgrades were installed the night before, and now the icons were gone. (Yes, she channeled this information to me in perfect Computerese.)
One thing you must never do to seniors is take away their computer solitaire. My mother told me that an uprising was brewing in the computer room. She and her friends were at first perplexed, then frustrated, and now they were on the warpath to get the game restored. Apparently, office staff at the center didn't know how to do this, and the volunteer consultant who installed the upgrades was temporarily unavailable.
I asked her to get pen and paper to write down step-by-step instructions for finding the game and restoring its icon to the desktop.
"Do you know where the ‘Start' button is?" I said.
"Sure." she said. "It's in the status bar. When you left-click it, you get a menu."
It took only 10 minutes for her to write the instructions and read them back to me flawlessly.
That afternoon she brought the instructions to the senior center and handed them to one of the office staff. In a matter of minutes, every PC was fixed, the rebellion was over, and my mother was the heroine of the day.
Just in case you or a senior you know would like to start using computers...
A PC-free Home
With her enquiring mind, adventuresome spirit, and tack-sharp wit, I thought she'd love having her own PC at home to surf the web, join up with the online community, and add to her impressive storehouse of knowledge. Several times in the last few years, I offered to install a new PC and work with her as much as she wanted or needed me to. But there was always an excuse.
The first excuse, before she had cable access, was, "I don't have a phone connection where I want the computer."
"No problem," I said. "I can fix that. Just tell me where you want another jack."
She met my suggestion with icy silence, stood up, started watering the house plants, and changed the subject to junk mail and how much she hates it.
The next excuse, after she had cable installed, was, "My house is already loaded with furniture. I have no place to put a PC stand."
Each time I brought the subject up, I heard another excuse.
My mother has always been a little different. She learned early on how to make it in the world on her own. She guards her independence like a lioness her fresh kill. I see that her insistence on remaining PC-free while at the same time conversing fluently in Computerese is a clear sign of independence as well as another cherished difference to be added to her repertoire of unique traits.
On a Personal Note...
I would like to thank Blogger Mom for the kick in the butt her excellent hub Technology and the Senior Citizen gave me this morning. In writing my hub, I thought about the challenges Blogger Mom described, and immediately recognized that some of the excuses my mother makes are cover-ups for avoiding the real physical and emotional issues seniors can face when learning and using today's technologies. But, that's my mom! Brilliant, independent, unique, and stubborn. I wouldn't have her any other way.