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Need help getting my 75 year old mother connected to the Internet

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / November 15, 2012 8:33 AM PST

Need help getting my 75 year old mother connected to the Internet

I need some advice on how to get my 75 year old mother, who lives in a self-care aged unit, who has no idea on technology, connected to the Internet. iPad or other tablet? Laptop? Wireless broadband modem? Where do I start? What would you recommend? Any help welcome.

--Submitted by: Guy P.
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Nod to iPad and Kindle Fire HD.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / November 15, 2012 8:38 AM PST

You didn't reveal what they would use it for but as to the internet connection you may want to use the center's wifi since cellular can drain you.

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I recomend the Ipad for the newbie.
by RS1947 / November 16, 2012 8:21 AM PST

My wife was terrible on trying to get on the computer. I bought her an Ipad and she is doing well on it. All she has to do is hit the app and she goes where she wants to go. She now send e-mails, gets on and navigates Facebook, takes pictures and much more. I am surprised that she caught on so fast.

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by websquad / November 23, 2012 1:36 AM PST

I'm 72, have a 4-screen tower with 4 HDDs and a SSD for system/software, run about 15 websites, and am comfortable with technology, having made my living with it for about 35 years. My wife, on the other hand, is terrified of technology; however, she is slowly adapting to my iPad 2, using the Facebook app to see what family & friends are doing. I suspect your mother will not go much beyond this, so the iPad may be the best fit.

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IPAD for senior
by photobug56 / November 30, 2012 1:44 PM PST

That's what I want my 81 year old mother to be able to do; email, some internet including FB. She would have to cough up for internet access in her apartment and a simple N router - something she can easily afford, but she hates spending money on things she is absolutely sure she doesn't need! Happy

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85 year old Mother-In-Law Active User
by bugged62 / November 30, 2012 4:55 PM PST
In reply to: IPAD for senior

Hi, I am late on this Topic nut would like to share with you my experience in keeping my 85 Year old Wallyfff live on Internet at home & Travel.
She is still scared of making mistakes, never touched Tech. until 3 years ago. She has a HP Atom. After many failures and constant visits to rest and instruct I have created a Google home page with only Big Icons for G-Mail, Skype, and Facebook. These are preloaded with always on with passwords.

She loves it and keeps in touch with her 7 Children and over thirty Great +Grand Children + old family in Italy.
She loves the Communication. The biggest problem is when her adsl goes down she cannot reset and where she lives in South Africa there are frequent interruptions, elect. and storms.

As a screensaver I have loaded her Photos and add fresh ones from family events !

Nonna travels frequently and first item is her Atom.

So keep it simple and it is used daily !

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What will she do, and who will be paying?

In my business, I deal with seniors either already using, or wishing to use the internet. In almost every case, the request has been the result of children's or grand children's recommendations.

Before spending money on equipment, associated connection gear and ongoing internet service fees, you should try to understand the motivation for the request, and whether there are more cost-effective alternatives. Consider also the technical background of the senior.

For example, a senior who spent his/her working years using computer equipment will feel more comfortable with a computer than someone who has no experience with computers or typing. You must take into account the person's dexterity (ability to comfortably use a keyboard and mouse, or even a touch screen), their eye sight (for determining size of screen) and their ability to pick up new skills.

If the goal is to give your grand mother a means of frequently communicating with grand children and getting to see them (via skype or other audio-visual applications), make sure you get equipment that will provide adequate bandwidth and compatibility with equipment on the "other end" of the line.

If the goal is to provide your grand mother with a form of entertainment (playing games, either alone or with online partners), you may be able to get away with a PC which already has games on it, and has the capacity for you to install other games via a CD or USB stick (with no internet connection required).

If the goal is to provide a means of viewing family photos in a convenient manner, you might consider getting a wifi-enabled picture frame. These will allow you to load and update her frame remotely through a special email address associated with her frame.

Regardless what you decide, understand that there will be ongoing costs, and probably requests to show grandma how to use whatever device she has. If you don't want to be responsible for the ongoing operating costs and training demands, you might want to rethink your strategy.

So now, some actual recommendations:

If you and your family are Apple-centric, and you insist on buying a device, get the iPad. It's the most intuitive of tablets, and despite the cost, you will probably feel most comfortable having her use a device you can understand.

If you and your family are PC-based, you might want to consider buying a Windows-based tablet or notebook PC. Just make sure it has a large enough form factor to offer a comfortable keyboard and screen.

Finally, if your grand mother already has experience using an Android-based cell phone and is an avid reader, she should be happy with any of a number of tablets, including the Amazon Kindle or Barnes and Noble Nook.

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by Call_Me / November 22, 2012 11:30 PM PST

J.E.--wow! Your answer was fantastic and not much more that ANYONE can offer, which is fine.

However, as the first responder asked, the O.P. doesn't mention WHY his 75 y.o. grandmother NEEDS internet access.

I'm just tossing this out there for consideration, because it's the one option I didn't see listed in J.E.'s awesome reply. So, Original Poster, if your grandmother is NOT a Tech Head and won't be watching PSY on youtube anytime soon, why not visit the Consumer Reports page on "Review of Tablets for Kids." No, I'm NOT being insulting or demeaning to your grandmother!!!

My "kids" are all grown up adults, but I still tune in to TV ads for these introductory tablets for the very beginners, meaning children. They are very easy to hold for wee hands (or shaky/arthritic hands), have high graphic designs, and some of them, like the LeapFrog LeapPad has wee animal prompts that verbally encourage the beginning user. Again, I am NOT assuming that your Granny is an idiot or has Alzheimer's!!! I am basing my recommendation on her age, the fact that she's NOT getting any younger, and the fact that multitudes of my friends in their frickin' 40's can't understand the most basic functions of their smartphones...which THEY bought!

The cost is super cheap for the 3 recommended tablets: only $80 bucks!

Perhaps if the O.P. can add to their question the WHY'S of their desire to Tech-Up Granny, future responders can provide more tuned in replies.

Good Luck to you!

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Computing with your grandma
by luigilammachi / December 1, 2012 12:29 AM PST

I have taught elderly people to use computers for several years. Their biggest desire is to email and biggest fear is that they may damage the computer. . Use a mouse to minimize movement required. Avoid all devices with touch screen and small printing. Assure her that she cannot hurt the machine and teach her the basics. After that leave her alone and answer the phone when she calls.
Get your grandma an old computer with a keyboard and mouse that are easy to use. (They seem to have less fear of hurting a keyboard)

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Some thoughts...

The admin had a lot of good comments. My mother passed last year and enjoyed her computer till close to the end.

A couple of thoughts:
If your mother knows how to type and is used to that--something with a keyboard might be better than a tablet. My mom (who admittedly was much older than yours) found touch screens baffling.

Suggest taking her to a store and letting her type on things.

Also--my mom's vision failed the last few. Many of the LCD TVs have VGA ports on them. I hooked her computer up to her TV so she could use really HUGE fonts. You haven't lived till you've seen solitaire on a 48" screen.

Good luck.

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The real question is "Does she WANT to be connected?"
by gaddy1983 / November 16, 2012 8:58 AM PST

We are located near a very large retirement community and we support many seniors whom I refer to as our 'mature' clients.

The more basic but VERY important issue is making sure your mother really wants to connect and if 'yes' then what is it she wants to do? Each device (Tablet, Laptop, Smartphone) has it's strengths and weakness. Will she want to 'Skype' with distant family members or is just surfing and email. Will she get a printer? Just because she can do these things doesn't mean she wants to or would be willing to learn. If she is already computer literate she will be instrumental in determining the best mix of internet and device(s). If not - Who will really be responsible for support her learning the new skills needed do become comfortable with this technology.

If one is computer literate there are a set of concepts that are already second nature (Browser, click, back, tap, drag etc). Even the concept of a user name and password can seem foreign if you have not used it before. Her desire to learn will go a long way to easing the learning curve.

The internet connection is the easy part.

If the facility where you mother is staying offers WiFi, any device will be able to access it.

Next, if the individual residents have to supply there own broadband, she, with your help, may be able to piggy back off a neighbor who has unsecured wireless or offer to share the cost of the service with a neighbor if she can find a secured network in range whose owner she can identify.

If there is no one in range or willing to share, look for the LOWEST price service. The community near me offers a single cable carrier but at 1/2 the regular rate for anyone who lives there. If she has not had any service at all then even a slow DSL line will rock her world.

Be careful of imposing your desire for her to get connected upon her, We don't connect with computers, we connect with people and some times it just has to be on their terms. Good luck

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took the words out of my mouth
by Bob.F / November 17, 2012 5:59 AM PST

I taught seniors computers for several years I am myself 64 . This person displayed no interest in tech previously . This is to help who the user or the others. How about a good phone plan with long distance where shecould be called briefly and she could call back with her plan. Photos could be printed and mailed to her for a photo album. If you must go the tech route what about a smart TV this is new tech but the view is very large You haven't said anything about her vision or Eye hand co ordination . To be honest I haven't found teaching tech to seniors to have been a great success by myself or other courses I checked out .

Sorry for the bad news Bob

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Computer for 75 year old mother.
by Ron Geiken / November 16, 2012 9:04 AM PST

I think that some kind of tablet, either an i Pad or an Android might be better than Windows. The Windows O/S is too complicated for computer illiterate users. I myself am going to get a Nexus 10 Tablet. That has Android version 4.2 Jelly Bean on it, and the O/S on that product is the full unmodified Android, so you will be able to get updates on the Google Play store on both the O/S and the apps. I had a self installed version of Android 4.0.3 that Installed on an ASUS Netbook that shipped to me with W7 on it. I enjoyed the cobbled up version of Android a lot more than the W7 version shipped. I think that the simpler O/S s on the Tablets keep computer problems to a minimum. Consider the Nexus 10 if you want to go with Android since all of the updating should happen automatically. I think that an i Pad would probably do that too, but I personally found that the Google Play Store was very user friendly. You can do a lot of things on a Tablet without knowing too much about how it operates, since the app providers through Apple and Google will keep malware from your device. Also make sure to use a Firewall and Anti Virus Application. A lot of good products to put on these devices are free from the stores.

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You have me confused
by mike53_1999 / November 22, 2012 11:18 PM PST

Keep it as simple as possible. I would go with a mini desktop (not a lot of space for personal things in nursing homes) with full sized keyboard (more attuned to the typewriter) a wired mouse (batteries are the problem with the wireless mice) Flat screen monitor 22 inch would be best (lager image with out taking away space) Wired internet if nursing home do not have WIFI (as the user will not need to have mobile computing)

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Good points mike53_1999
by JCitizen / November 24, 2012 8:59 AM PST
In reply to: You have me confused

It has been my experience that several rest homes/independent living facilities, in my area, have free wifi for the residents. However, one should never count on that - YMMV. Fortunately in most areas of the US, you can get wireless internet from Verizon for about 25 bucks a month, and all you need is the Ethernet dongle - please don't confuse this with their expensive mobile version that has charges for every data download.

This is their home internet version, and it can be bundled with telephone that acts just like landline communication. If you get both, it requires a different modem to handle it all, of course; but the people at Verizon will hopefully be aware of this(not always the case in my area). This would save you from having to buy a modem, and router, as well as the actual web device.

I personally think the new touch screen all-in-ones are an excellent idea, because you don't need eye hand coordination to use the mouse. My mother had severe problems using one, and never did master it. They also take up very little room and can be configured for ease of access with large text, and they already come in pretty respectable monitor sizes. With an all-in-one you just have the monitor housing to deal with, but can still used USB, DVD(in some models), multi-bay for SD cards for photos, etc. Of course, finding a place to put a printer is still a problem. My buddy had it all in his living quarters, and he was in a swing bed unit; and he had a bulky printer, and desktop unit with keyboard mouse and all!!!. So they bend over backwards to help the residents in these places, in my area.

The only consideration left would be what operating system, and I will leave that to other commenters here, I do agree that the learning curve may be less with tablet devices using Android, but I've never tried Windows8 metro, so I can't respond to how easy it will be for a PC challenged first time user, to operate.

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Need help getting my 75 year old mother connected...
by richj120952 / November 16, 2012 9:21 AM PST

Most retirement homes allow cable connections to private in room TV sets, and phones. You should be able to get her connected via either of those providers. If not you might try one of the 4G dedicated wireless connects like Clear.

When you set her up, be sure to secure the wireless connection with WPA2, and keep the pass phrase somewhere you can get to it. What to use as the browser interface? At 75 people's sight is not usually super good, so I would recommend a large screen laptop 17" or larger. If she needs true portability, then an Ultrabook 14" would be better than the 10.1" or 11 inch netbooks.

You say she is not good with tech though, so be prepared to give her training, and constant assistance. Also, really train her on security. She should not give her passwords to anyone at the facility, ever.

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For your grandmother first ...

Are her eyes, and health in good shape. If she has a vision problem, a larger screen would be suggested.
If she has never used a keyboard, a larger keyboard as found on a desktop would be better than a tablet.

If health issues are not a concern, then invite her to visit a computer store with you to look at the kind of computer that would interest her. She will choose a model that will make her comfortable.

If you are purchasing new, go for it. Have the internet installed, and be prepared to spend some hours for a week or so, getting her started and self sufficient to use the computer and to access the web.

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There are a whole lot of questions you need to answer first
by chillmog / November 16, 2012 9:49 AM PST

You need a checklist to help you make your decision:

1. Budget. How much can you (or your mother) spend on initial equipment and on-going expenses?
2. Does her facility have an internet connection? If so, what kind wired or wireless?
3. What is her physical and mental condition?
4. How is her eyesight?
5. What is the physical security in her facility?
6. How will she be using the internet?

The first step would be to find out what connectivity is available. If she has WiFi or an ethernet connection available, you have many possibilities. If neither is available, broadband wireless may be the only alternative and depending on the budget may be prohibitively expensive.

The next step would be determining what type of equipment would be best for her. Does she have any physical impairments that would limit her choice of equipment? As a couple of examples, someone with severe Parkinson's disease may have with a touch screen while someone with arthritis may be more comfortable with a touch screen than trying to use a keyboard. How is her visual acuity? Would she be comfortable with a 10-inch tablet screen or would she be better with a large-screen laptop or even a desktop with a 19" (or larger) monitor?

Physical security is a consideration as in many senior facilities small things seem to disappear. If this could be a problem, a larger laptop or desktop may be a good choice.

These are some of the things to consider even before thinking about Windows, Apple or Android systems.

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I was about to say the same thing
by dmbflorida / November 17, 2012 1:09 PM PST

In addition to the info given by chillmog, I add that your mother might not want to use a mobile device, especially if she is used to watching tv a lot and does not leave the facility frequently... you might consider getting her a "smart tv" rather than a tablet or laptop. Does she like to watch movies that she can access from Netflix or Blockbuster or even Hulu using the "smart tv"?
Her personal interests will dictate if she would like to tweet or use facebook using a computer.
I suggest a cheaper tablet for her at first rather than a recent new generation iPad that has a faster processor and a lot of memory. She might drop the tablet or other device so a cheaper tablet might be considered. If she has good reading vision, you might want to start her on a smaller screen and then get her a ten inch one if that seems desirable.
You might take her a laptop with Skype installed with a web camera to see how she likes interacting with others who have Skype capabilities.
For safety and convenience, you could buy her a cheap prepaid phone with no subscription required for her use mostly away from her living facility.
Everyone is different in interests and competencies. My 59 year old daughter is proficient at the intermediate level in using a p.c. and work-related software. My 57 year old son is an advanced computer programmer and data analyst. My 52 year old daughter is overwhelmed beyond a very basic use of her p.c.
I am 77 and love to use desktop and laptop computers to connect to the internet to keep up with "what's happening" related to computers. Fast connectivity is very important to me.

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About Mice and Pointing Devices
by bobh007 / December 1, 2012 3:26 AM PST

Good reply, I'd add one consideration. My 70+ year old mom was having problems using either a touchpad or a standard mouse on the refurb laptop we got for her (she didn't have Parkinson's but she did have a bit of a shaky hand).

We ended up getting her a 'mouse' that didn't move around, but had a large trackball that she could roll around to move the cursor, and a left and right click buttons. It took her just half an hour to be able to use the larger ball. With mouse sensitivity adjustments and click speed, she ended up being a capable user, and had a dozen years of loving her laptop before she passed away in 2005.

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Why does she want it?
by dangnad1 / November 16, 2012 9:52 AM PST

The first question to ask anyone who wants a computer is "WHY?". What does she plan to do with it? If she has no 'idea on technology' then I suspect you urged her to get one. Why did you do that?

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Consider a fixed location for her Internet access
by Randy207 / November 16, 2012 10:26 AM PST

I have read the other nine replies that you have and they all offer excellent ideas. I would like to offer a few additional thoughts however. I am 77 myself and spend a good deal of time helping my friends with their computer problems. I am not so sure about the ipads, tablets and other smaller mobile devices; they are easily lost or misplaced. If your grandmother has her own room, she probably has cable TV. If this is the case adding a router and small desktop computer is quite simple and an effective solution to your problem. Choosing a PC or Apple would depend on what YOU are most comfortable with. I would also argue that small touch screen devices are not easy for older people. A mouse and key board are easier to deal with and most of us have some experience with them. When setting up the system, use shortcuts when possible. If you can, teach her how to reboot. This will fix 90% of the problems she will run into when no one is around to help. You may find that there are some other older people around who can help out at times also. I add just one more thing; how well your grandmother does with the internet does not depend so much on how old she is, but she did during her lifetime.

Good Luck - Randy

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Need help getting my 75 year old mother connected to the Int
by graydog111 / November 16, 2012 10:30 AM PST

I am 76 going on her a Macbook Pro and turn her loose.

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A word of caution
by graydog111 / November 17, 2012 10:59 AM PST

My wife's mother was in a long term facility. A visitor or worker would think she was comatose, but she was very aware of everything going on in her room. The staff went through her stuff and stole her bath powders, perfumes, gowns, etc. They turned her 19 inch TV where THEY could watch it and changed channels. I am sure they would have stolen a laptop computer.

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Very true...
by JCitizen / November 24, 2012 9:12 AM PST
In reply to: A word of caution

In our local facility the other residents friends and family weren't always as honest as the residents; so stuff disappeared all the time. I had my buddy who was disabled and in a swing bed unit get one of those cable attachment locks, and use it to secure it to the desk. So one might want to buy something that has the required attachment points on the device.

Your argument is also another good idea why it may be better to use an all-in-one with a touch screen interface, so that no mouse, or keyboard is needed. Those maybe pilferable items as well!

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Because Macbooks Pros aren't cheap
by Robynsveil / November 30, 2012 12:55 PM PST

...and Chromebooks are, consider one as a solution. Unless Grandma likes to code in C# and needs Visual Studio, use Photoshop regularly, wants to brush up on her spreadsheet skills or do video editing, she'll be quite happy with what a Chromebook has to offer.

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Help In Connecting to the Internet
by xceo37 / November 16, 2012 11:18 AM PST

One needs to have a service which is either telephone or TV service to get your mother connected. She will need an e-mail address whether it is Yahoo, Hotmail or one of the TV servers. If she doesn't have a computer, your best bet is to get her an IPad or Samsung or anyone that has the tablet.

She will need a Wi Fi. I am sure you probably know about them. On the IPad, she will need to go to Settings and click, All the information is right there and I am sure you can guide her. If she is like me, due to her age, she will need to write it down. Apple's IPad has ALL the directions in a book which she can download from the Apple Store. She will need and email address and a password.

There is no way she can do any of this without being shown HOW so get with it Guy and give her all the help she needs to get started. At her age, the IPad will be the easiest to handle and learn and much better than a computer. She can visit with you and bring her Pad along with her. That way, you won't have to run to her house to give her help. Good luck.



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Physical Security of whatever you Supply
by hortnut / November 16, 2012 11:22 AM PST

Skimming the prior posts, there are many good points to consider.

One thing I did not see mentioned was Physical Security of the Unit you purchase. Can it phone home? Can it be tracked? Can it be locked remotely? Can it be erased remotely? Can a picture be taken of the user? Put a file that opens at the time of startup, showing picture of your Mom, her name, name of facility, room number, your contact information, in the event someone "finds" it? [of course being careful as to not giving too much information that could be used in a scam, scheme, id theft attempt, etc?]**.

Too small, it can walk away with ease. Even large, it can. It can be picked up by mistake with the laundry and bedding, by another visitor, resident, staff or who knows? It happens.

No disrespect to the Facility where she is now, but even the best ones can have breaches. [at one time worked in the Claims Field and the Company insured a lot of Nursing Homes, amongst other Businesses. Lots of things got "lost". They only insured the best of the best.]

My own Mom was in a highly rated Facility this Summer for a couple of months. Even though personal belongings were marked, things disappeared. On the other hand, Mom gained some things, which I turned into staff. Some of Mom's things reappeared and some did not. It was no big thing, though, as it was just casual clothes for a 90 year old and she has plenty.

As to the Facility, they had Wi-Fi and a Computer Lounge with up to date machines. Their Broadband was supplied by Comcast Business and it was one of the higher tiers as evidenced by Speedtests.

Hope this helps

** a little note - After my Mom came home, started getting calls for Auto Insurance Quotes. Mom has not driven in years. First caller, I started right off to dig deep and learned that he had gotten an Internet Request for a quote. Then determined the sites where the requests had been made. Nipped it in the bud fairly quickly. The source of the prank? Someone in the medical field or at the Facility played a joke. Mom has severe Alzheimer's and does not have the ability to even voice such a request.

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I agree about security in a facility
by dmbflorida / November 18, 2012 7:00 AM PST

Before my mother died, I had her in assisted living and skilled nursing facilities. She primarily was in one of the most highly rated (and expensive) facilities. There was theft that was not investigated nor did the probable staff thieves get fired or reprimanded. My mom was already depressed and I bought her motivational items like angels and an angel blanket.... thieves took them. I bought her expensive shirts and some of the best were stolen. Even a tripod walker was stolen. This security issue is "on topic" since the discussion is on what type of device should be given to a Senior citizen living in a facility away from home. Accidental dropping of things or knocking them off the bed while asleep adds to the potential of damaging expensive devices.... I still would consider getting a smart tv... try her out on that when she visits a place with a smart tv. for one thing, tvs are harder to hide or remove when thieves strike.

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In my experience....
by JCitizen / November 24, 2012 9:19 AM PST

it is more likely the other residents, or relatives/friends of the other residents are the culprits in these cases. Having a wifi security camera installed in the room, that can report to your smart phone, would be a good investment - also like previous posters here suggested - putting some kind of low-jack program on board the device would help locate it after it was stolen.

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Point out other technology she is already using
by wrogers / November 16, 2012 11:53 AM PST

Part of the problem is just fear in general. She probably had some fear when she first started driving a car. Point out to her she took on the challenge and won. The auto is often described as a big computer. Step one is unlocking the door, then adjusting the seat, affixing the seat belt, adjusting the mirror, radio and air conditioning or heater. Then turning the key and pressing the gas pedal. Then moving the gear shift into position then taking control of the steering wheel and easing the car out into traffic. She then had to continously scan the horizon for traffice, stop lights and signs. And the list goes on.

She probably had kitchen appliances she mastered that are more complicated than an iPad. Get her to talk about these challenges and get her in the right frame of mind to accept the Internet challenge.

My question is, "Mom, are you too old to learn anything?" She'd probably kick me out of the house as part of her answer. Life is a continous learning project. You're never too old to learn. I'm 75 and still learning. I gave my 75 year old wife an iPad for last Christmas. She hated it for a month or too, until her learning genes kicked in. Now I can't take it away from her.

An iPad device should do the job - ease and low cost and a short learning curve.

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