No, really, she'll love it once she's not terrified of it.
November 2, 2010 7:16 PM   Subscribe

Older relative could use an iPod Touch, but she's baffled by the interface and easily flustered. Ideas for helping her learn to use the Touch?

An older relative could really use an iPod Touch: she has a lot of photos that she wants to have with her all the time; she is often away from home (but staying in places with wifi), so she could use it to keep up with her mail; she likes to have her entire address book with her at all times; and she'd use the camera often. 

Here's the problem: the iPod Touch's wonderfully intuitive interface is not intuitive for my relative. She is terrified by my iPhone. She stares helplessly at the "Slide to Unlock" directive and asks me what she should do when she encounters it. She has difficulty placing and timing her "clicks," so she often ends up on screens that are not what she wanted. She gets flustered easily. In spite of this, I believe that she could learn how to use the Touch (she learned how to use a Mac about five years ago, and she LOVES it) and that it would be a great help to her. However, hovering over her shoulder and trying to gently coach her has not been helpful, and she won't go near an iPhone or iPod on her own. 

To be clear: my relative doesn't have any kind of physical disability. She's just intimidated by new technology. 

So, here's my question: what can she and/or I do to help her learn to use an iPod Touch? Also: is this complete folly? Even if I know she would be crazy proud of herself if she could use a Touch with confidence?
posted by TEA to Technology (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
How about having her play some games, or maybe a drawing application?

That may not be the most useful thing she can do with the iPod Touch, but if you get her away from things that look like computer controls and into direct-manipulation it could help her get more comfortable with the touch interface.
posted by alms at 7:21 PM on November 2, 2010

This sounds like a problem the Apple Store could help with, if you are near one. They do have free iPhone orientation classes that go over all the basics and such.
posted by calistasm at 7:29 PM on November 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

could you consider an ipad instead...? sometimes the smaller size is part of the problem...
posted by HuronBob at 7:30 PM on November 2, 2010 [7 favorites]

It might be helpful to reassure her that she can't break your iPhone by poking at the screen with her finger. That fear is one of those terribly common yet rarely articulated things often shared by novice technology users.

And yah, I wonder if the small screen size is contributing to her difficulties: I find myself holding my iPhone further and further away lately.
posted by jamaro at 7:39 PM on November 2, 2010

Also: is this complete folly?

You might be overestimating how easy it should be. I bought an iPod Touch a few months ago, and I still can't get used to it. I'm 29 and have been using Macs from the '80s to right now. (I'm typing this on a MacBook Pro — which has an iPhone-like trackpad.) I can't reliably cut/copy what I want. I have no idea how to consistently scroll. I find the browser is missing a lot of features I expect when surfing the web. The autocorrect always seems to change my text when I don't want it to ("its" automatically becomes "it's"!). I can't edit text the way I'm used to. I use it less than I was expecting to. So I don't really know what you mean when you refer to its "wonderfully intuitive interface."
posted by John Cohen at 7:47 PM on November 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

Does she already have a cellphone? You could try comparing the iPod's functions to what a cellphone she's already familiar with does.
posted by dragonplayer at 9:01 PM on November 2, 2010

A few thoughts:

As someone who works at an Apple store and does training on this sort of thing with people just like your relative, I can say that it CAN be learned. That said, it takes a LOT of time.

The real issue is the fear. If she's looking at the "Slide to Unlock" and asking what to do then her problem isn't not knowing what to do, it's most likely fear that she'll do something wrong, or possibly fear that she'll look stupid while she tries to figure it out.

Apple Stores do have training for this sort of thing. If you know someone planning on buying a new Mac soon, the best thing you can do is get her the $99 "One to One" training service, which is a year of one on one classes on anything you want including very basic touchscreen use. The free workshops MIGHT help, but frankly I don't think someone in your relative's position would get much out of them. Unfortunately, because of demand, you can only start a new membership when you buy a new Mac, so poll your friends and see if anyone's planning a purchase. (Doesn't have to be HER Mac. :-)

How motivated is your relative? I've seen a lot of older people whose sons or grandchildren have bought them iPads or the like and who basically were happy with things as they had them and saw the new devices as intrusions, or one more damn thing to figure out so as not to disappoint the person who gave it to them. I've also seen people who couldn't wait to learn how to use them and were excited by the possibilities. Which is your relative, really?
posted by raygan at 9:28 PM on November 2, 2010

Seconding "reassure her that she can't break your iPhone". Older people might well need to hear that. Though the fact that it's a phone and she could accidentally call a stranger probably doesn't help.

Is she using it one-handed, or two? It might be easier for her to hold it in one hand and use a finger from the other hand, or vice-versa, it might be easier for her to hold it in one hand and try to do everything with her thumb.

Also, how well do her fingers actually work on fine tasks? You tell us she's elderly but not how old. Maybe she has arthritis and fine motor control isn't great for her.

Thirdly, and this goes along with the reassurance about not breaking it -- stop watching her! Just leave her alone with an iPod Touch (maybe in an Apple store as suggested) and let her get along with it. It's much harder to use something with someone else watching.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 9:45 PM on November 2, 2010

I wonder if your relative might feel better using a stylus? I can see how that could be easier in terms of precise placement on the screen?
posted by purlgurly at 9:38 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

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