Saturday, September 3, 2011

Why Aging Parents Who Work Should Use Computers

Heads up if you work in your older parents’ business and they depend on you for all things computer

As readers know we are renovating an apartment with a building-imposed renovation deadline of September 16th–less than 2 weeks away. Our highly regarded,  renovation company may not meet it. True, there have been unforeseen problems that caught everyone off guard, yet the major problems could have been quickly and capably handled if the older generation (founders of the company, still working with their technologically capable boomer sons) instinctively thought “computers” instead of writing in longhand.
I’ve posted about 60-year-olds who cavalierly say they don’t use a computer and don’t plan to–that their children do anything that involves a computer for them.  If we raised our children doing for them instead of teaching them to do for themselves, wouldn’t we–in effect–be crippling them?
These older dads are so accustomed to depending on their sons for anything involving a computer, that they’re oblivious to the wasted time and significant errors they themselves generate.
  • Think: handwriting selections and sizes for cabinets knobs, handles, colors, tile selection etc. etc. which then get lost or misread and need to be redone–again in longhand.
  • Think about needing to make changes in a kitchen plan, then needing to phone to get information for Fed-Exing those plans because the aging parents don’t realize that plans can be technologically reduced and emailed or faxed almost instantaneously. One man who can email (when he remembers to check his emails) says he’ll take a just-reworked plan home to his wife, who he thinks can reduce and email it.
  • And finally (no, not really, but I don’t want to bore anyone with too many examples) what about the oven unit where specific dimensions from floor to top of bottom oven and to top of upper oven are emailed….. and the top oven comes with the opening too high up to reach? The older dad must have forgotten to forward my email, with specific oven dimensions to the cabinet company.
Why? Because this older man–not a bad person, in fact a very nice person–has never made technology use part of his daily life. I think he relies on his memory (probably more accurate in the old days) and forgets there’s something in writing awaiting him on his computer (which probably no one has ever organized for him).
My followers know I have great empathy for older people/aging parents. And I’m not really certain it’s the fault of mentally able aging parents if they haven’t progressed technologically.  If their children do it for them, why should parents bother to learn?  (If we did things for our children how could they have learned?)
The two founders of the company are guiding the work on our apartment. One has no computer knowledge; the other, mentioned earlier, has a computer he is rarely disciplined about using.  Clearly these men think they’re doing their best but in today’s world they can’t deliver as quickly or as accurately. Sadly their Boomer sons aren’t helping.
To help parents age well, we need to equip them for this century if we want to help them remain “in the game.”  It’s even more important if they are in business and rely on us (adult children) to do the technological part. Helpful as that may seem, it doesn’t help; it cripples.
It’s sad to see fine older men needing to apologize, scrambling to come up with quick fixes, and laughingly saying these problems are “giving them a heart attack.” Indeed most of the problems could have been avoided if–from the start–they were comfortable using a computer. In the next post we’ll address: teaching older adults how to use a computer.

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