No seriously, a large print Arduino would be great...
May 9, 2012 8:52 AM   Subscribe

Back in the days of yore, my (almost) 77 year old father was quite the geek and maker, but never a programmer. Fast- forward to today and he can no longer work on big building projects and spends much of his time with his iPad and TV. We've been discussing what kinds of "doing" projects he'd like to work on, but the obvious contender of an Arduino is maybe a little difficult as I'm not in Australia to help him out with the programming side of things. What great projects have you known senior geeks to get into?

My Dad's great - at times he's been a pilot, a house builder and world traveller and develops string and particle theory alternatives for fun. Since he's become older and has a deteriorating lung condition, he's become more housebound and not as active as he'd like to. He's finished supervising all the renovation projects he had planned, but while his and the extended family's houses look great he's at a bit of a loss for what to do next!

Dad loves watching TED talks, thinks 3D printing is a fabulous idea and loves his iPad. However, while he's confident at using office programs on his computers, he's freqently asking for assistance with his iPad. Dad's also dyslexic which makes it much harder for text heavy activities.

As mentioned at the top, I've thought about introducing him to Arduino, as he worked with simple electronics (crystal radios etc) when he was younger. However, the smallprint and delicacy of the Arduino itself + the need to work relatively accurately with text on the programming side makes me a bit nervous about sending him a starter kit.

If I was living nearby I'd love to help him get stuff setup, however I'm in Europe while Dad's in Australia, and can't be around / online that much to troubleshoot. I've suggested he visit his local Hackerspace meetings, but more than anything, access to the space prevents him from easily visiting.

I'm interested in all ideas for the elderly geek, but specifically, what initially simple geeky projects and products for the housebound, dyslexic, elderly geek (with long-distance daughterly tech support) can you suggest?
posted by pipstar to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
have you seen little bits? A bit like arduino but without the programming. Relevant Ted Talk
posted by rubyrudy at 9:12 AM on May 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

You might think about ham radio. They have clubs of mostly old guys who get together to talk about and build radios.
posted by CathyG at 9:55 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yes, seriously ham radio. 77 years is pretty young compared to most radio club members here.
posted by scruss at 10:23 AM on May 9, 2012

Sadly, I think Dad's done the ham radio thing in an earlier life - when my younger brother started in CB radio Dad showed very little interest.

Little Bits look great! And thanks for the TED talk to grab his attention :-)

Weather stations have also crossed my mind as something he'd like...
posted by pipstar at 10:36 AM on May 9, 2012

I'm not sure your concerns about the Arduino are valid. You can learn and build a lot of simple projects by just cutting and pasting code, or making very simple changes to it. And it wouldn't cost much to give it a try.

Home machining is becoming a very popular hobby because there's lots of help on the Internet and you can put together a home machine shop now for a very reasonable cost. A lot of older people with handicaps take it up. Many hobbyists enjoy using their tools to build small simple model steam engines.

I'm a ham and agree with those who have suggested ham radio. You may also want to see if there is an active maker or hacker space nearby that he can get involved with.
posted by 14580 at 10:48 AM on May 9, 2012

More geek than making - What about Planet Hunters?
posted by Chairboy at 11:20 AM on May 9, 2012

Bah - botched the link. Sorry: Planet hunters
posted by Chairboy at 11:23 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, I've used the SparkFun inventors kit for arduino which was a lot of fun. It comes with about 10 tutorials with cut/paste code and is fairly easy to use for non-programmers. You say the 'delicacy' is a problem - the parts are fairly small and do require some dexterity, but as long as that isn't a problem, they seem fairly robust to me.
posted by rubyrudy at 11:36 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

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