Elderly Parents + iPad - Computer = ???
February 25, 2016 4:50 AM   Subscribe

So, my parents have decided to join the rest of us here in the 21st Century and get Internet access and an iPad. As the free technical support of the family, it's fallen on me to get the device up and running and to keep it running. Difficulty level: they do not own a computer. Help me think this through from all angles so I'm not getting daily calls for assistance.

I recommended an iPad because they just work. There's not a lot of tinkering under the hood like an Android tablet, and I like apple's ecosystem.
They will be using it for Amazon Kindle ebook reading, Netflix streaming, possibly email and that's about it. Nothing too difficult, nothing too taxing.

- My idea was to do the initial set up on my mac, but I want to make sure that they have their own itunes ID, credit card, and account, and not mine. Is that possible? Can you link to something that will walk me through this process?
- I figure that if the ios needs updating, they can just do that over the wi-fi and not with my computer and itunes.
- They won't need any sort of iCloud backup, because if something happened, it would probably just be easier to do a factory reset due to the small number of apps involved.

In my brain this seems very easy, but I want to make sure I'm not viewing this whole thing through rose-colored glasses.

What do you think? Easy peasy, or heartbreak city?
Thanks in advance for your help!
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I agree, I don't think this will be difficult to set up. The only reason I would set up iCloud backup for them is if they are going to be using the iPad to take photos. I think that is the main thing it would be sad to lose in the event of a disaster. Here are instructions for setting up a new Apple ID: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204316.

The biggest issue my Mom has had with her iPhone has been accidentally pressing the home button too long, so that it goes into that mode whether the apps "wiggle" and you can accidentally move them around/delete them. So, I would show them how this works and tell them something to the effect of "If you see THIS happening, press this button until it goes away."
posted by rainbowbrite at 5:06 AM on February 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh! Another thing. Many public libraries and Apple stores and other tech stores (like Best Buy) have iPad classes for seniors. My in-laws have LOVED taking these classes, and it takes a lot of the tech support load off of you.
posted by rainbowbrite at 5:18 AM on February 25, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I bought my mom an iPad and she doesn't have a computer. She loves it. I did zero set up with a computer - we just hooked her up with an iTunes account and set up the wifi and that was it.

No computer involved.

(She LOVES Facebook and plays games and has only a vague idea about the web and I cannot seem to explain to her why she might want to use email instead of Facebook messenger.)
posted by girlpublisher at 5:24 AM on February 25, 2016

Best answer: I don't have a Mac or iTunes and have never connected my iPad to a computer. I set up everything through settings and the App Store on the device itself. I've never needed to connect it to a computer. I use it for email, Netflix, etc.
posted by lollusc at 5:30 AM on February 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all SO MUCH for alleviating my fears.
Best Answers for EVERYONE!
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 5:31 AM on February 25, 2016

Best answer: Be sure to set up the Amazon app to buy books. And the overdrive app to check out books from their library. BUT, the Overdrive app is really clunky and hard to use, in my opinion, so it will take some time for them to get used to it.
posted by raisingsand at 5:54 AM on February 25, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I did this for my mom. After having it for a couple months, she asked me "how do you live without an iPad?"

I did a bunch of advanced install and setup of apps before I gave it to her. I set up the wifi as well--that was one thing that turned out to be a bit tricky recently, as the iPad does this wonderful thing where it connects to another open wifi network if the one it is currently on is flaky in some way. For some reason, there are like a million open networks where she lives out in the woods and it was jumping around like crazy. I think things starting loading a bit better when I anchored it to a single network.
posted by chiefthe at 6:01 AM on February 25, 2016

Best answer: Make a facebook account for them and search for groups from their hometown, friends of theirs, family, and a few fun pages with pretty pictures and info that would interest them (for my grandma, it's cute animals, flowers/gardening, and Bible verses). A tablet and facebook access has made my grandma feel connected to what's happening in the world more than anything else.
posted by phunniemee at 6:03 AM on February 25, 2016

Best answer: I got my folks iPads years ago, got rid of their clunker PC and never looked back. One caveat: are they going to be using 3G or Wi-Fi? Netflix streaming will eat up a 3G data plan rapidly.
posted by porn in the woods at 6:11 AM on February 25, 2016

Best answer: Definitely bring them info on those device usage classes. They are the answer to "why can't I look this up in an instruction manual?!" for people of a certain disposition.

My parents are computer savvy but a few years ago they switched mostly to an iPad, and a few issues have emerged.

The main one is the concept of digital identity. Because they share one iPad, everything else in there is shared, too. Except they have two different Facebook accounts, and they also have iPhones with different numbers, but they share one email address, and since everything is backed up to and pinged out from the one iPad, any text I send my dad also goes to my mom. Any email I send to my mom might get read by my dad and then Mom never sees an unread email. Their game high scores are all shared and sometimes they argue about whose high score is whose. Every picture they each take with their phones shows up on the iPad too, and every iPad photo is on their phones, but each phone's individual photos aren't on the other phone. It's... confusing and weird and doesn't seem to bother my parents at all, but it bothers ME.

Mostly my parents try to ameliorate confusion by being a little old fashioned and signing their emails and texts with -Dad or -Mom, but if your parents are not like my weirdos and don't always tell each other absolutely everything no matter what then you might want to go through the process of setting up two email addresses and all the other stuff, or even floating the idea of two separate devices. It is a concept that doesn't really seem to stick with people past a certain age bracket, that of individual identity being tied to individual devices.
posted by Mizu at 6:37 AM on February 25, 2016

Best answer: As a school IT technician managing a fleet of iPads, the only time I ever have to connect one to a computer is when one of the little darlings has set and forgotten a passcode so that it needs to be factory reset to get it back into action.

It is a concept that doesn't really seem to stick with people past a certain age bracket, that of individual identity being tied to individual devices.

That would be because we past that certain age bracket grew up with computers that evolved beyond that particularly frustrating and idiotic limitation, and we completely fail to understand how both Apple and Google could possibly have screwed up something so basic so badly.
posted by flabdablet at 7:04 AM on February 25, 2016

Best answer: My 92 year old grandmother has an iphone and an ipad and the thing that helps the most is having her send me all her passwords so I can text them to her if she accidentally logs out of her email or something. Also, I have all of her reset/rescue emails sent to me so I can just go pick a new password for her and then text it to her. If I see a bunch of iCloud "forgot your password" emails, I know to call her because she's having trouble. Also, if you have their iCloud password and set the iPad to auto download apps, they can call you and say "I need a sudoku app!" and you can log on as them and buy the app and then it'll appear on the iPad.

Note: If the password needs a special character and you put an exclamation point at the end, they might think you're being annoyed when you text it to them and not type it in. It took three days of back and forth between my grandmother, my dad and my sister to figure out what was going on there. "Oh, I just thought you were excited when you sent it."
posted by artychoke at 8:06 AM on February 25, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I did this for my parents last summer when we were visiting them, and it worked really well. We didn't do any setup with a computer at all (though they do have one). Your parents will gravitate to the things they like best about the iPad; my mom really likes Facetime and connects with me all the time that way (we don't live in the same city). For that alone I am super glad we got them the iPad.

A few things I remember being useful, that some others have mentioned above:

I got them to write down their passwords as they set them up (iTunes, email, iPad security code) and told them to keep it handy in case they forgot. I know you're not supposed to do that, but honestly, if someone breaks into their apartment and finds their passwords, they've got bigger problems than someone being able to get into their iPad. (No banking or credit card passwords on there, obviously.)

I set up iTunes and e-mail apps for them and did the general settings with them while asking for their input (how big did they want the text, etc.)

I brought my own iPad and iPhone so that my parents each had an iPad and they could practice at the same time while I was there. (Yes, I am a teacher, why do you ask?) We practiced the things they were interested in using the iPad for (your mom's interests may vary):
  • signing in to the iPad
  • making and answering a FaceTime call
  • accessing e-mail
  • opening Safari and doing Google searches
  • taking photos and sending them via iMessage or e-mail
  • using iMessage
  • setting up the alarm clock
A couple of things that have since come up that I didn't anticipate:

Although I showed my parents how close programs completely, I forgot to show them how to close tabs on Safari. Therefore, when they came to visit us a couple of months later, they asked how to "delete" web pages. I had no idea what they were talking about, but when I took a look at their iPad, they had at least 50 Safari tabs open and had no idea how to close them. I am not sure how their iPad was still running! I've had to show them a few times how to close the browser tabs--it really seems to confound both of them, even though they are fine with other stuff. Don't know why.

I also picked up the newest version of this guide for them. There's an iPad for Seniors book, but I didn't want to condescend to them and this one seemed fine. My dad really likes it. He reads it and then passes the info to my mom, who prefers to just try stuff out until something works (or doesn't work).

Good luck! I think your mom will really enjoy this!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:41 AM on February 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If they like books there are a lot of great books about the iPad from the Dummies guides to ones that are a little more show and tell. I teach older people how to use iPads and it's remarkable how much they can usually do on their own. A few tips

- if it's new and under warranty make sure they know they can call Apple to ask questions
- if you set them up with an Apple ID make sure you write down the username and password in a SRS BZNS way. Most people I work with don't know their Apple ID
- set up their email to use the Mail app. Many people got "helpfully" set up with both the gmail app and the Mail app and now have two inboxes and are confused and miserable
- hide all the shit they don't need in a folder (give them a printed list of what is in there)
- make sure they know how to get on other wifi they might want to get on
- be sparing about the cloud and make sure *someone* knows how that stuff was configured
- if they are used to email (they may not be) make sure they know that sending attachments is "flipped" meaning you start from the attachment and then send the email, this confuses many people
- I might consider disabling in app purchases at first just so they don't wind up with an unpleasant surprise by accident. Not hard to turn back on

Also, exude confidence if they are timid. If their bank has an app or some other business they like to use, install that and show them how to use it. Getting to deposit checks with the iPad is a thing of beauty and can save time and money if people trust it.
posted by jessamyn at 11:12 AM on February 25, 2016

I did this for my grandparents after MeFi told me not to. It was a great decision. My grandmother loves going on FB and seeing all the kid's pictures. She plays puzzle games all the time on it. My father who lives nearby has copies of all the passwords and assists them on the few occasions that something goes wrong.
The account is in my "family", and so I am able to see the purchases (I told them they can buy apps, but they haven't downloaded anything that wasn't free yet) and can look for the iPad using Find my iPad. I have iCloud photos enabled, it helps just in case I ever have to replace it. Message me if you want more details.
posted by domo at 9:19 AM on February 26, 2016

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