Websites for the elderly?
February 12, 2006 9:41 AM   Subscribe

What websites will my 80-year-old grandfather love?

I'm hooking my elderly grandfather up with his first computer, and I'd like to pre-load a bunch of neat websites for him. He loves science and history, but anything interesting or fun would be great.

The sites must be free, should not require personal information during registration/sign-up (he's already a bit paranoid about the whole Internets thing) and should be easy for a new denizen of cyberspace to navigate.

Similar applications/utilities would also be appreciated (i.e. Google Earth, Skype, etc.).

Let's make this great-grandpa l33t!
posted by Rock Steady to Computers & Internet (37 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Family History?
posted by Leon at 9:54 AM on February 12, 2006

Call me Capt. Obvious, but I find myself spending hours surfing through the history articles at Wikipedia (and through reputable sites linked at the bottom of each article).
posted by charmston at 9:55 AM on February 12, 2006

I look forward to the comments on this thread. My 87 year-old grandmother is also new to the internet, and I think a little unsure of what's even available to her online.
posted by amro at 9:58 AM on February 12, 2006

There are dozens of sites that my grandfather enjoys that offer free or paid downloads of old-time radio programs from A to Z.
posted by vanoakenfold at 10:09 AM on February 12, 2006

Might he enjoy reading the ribald tales featured in this post?

Alternatively, maybe you could set him up with an RSS aggregator and subscribe to some of MeFi's more interesting tags, like science, history, art, etc.
posted by Gator at 10:15 AM on February 12, 2006

Is a WWII vet? Many WWII units/ships/air bases have websites with old photos and reminiscences. Maybe his does too.
posted by klarck at 10:15 AM on February 12, 2006

Does he belong to any clubs or organizations?

When I set my uncle up on the interweb machine I bookmarked pages for the Knights of Lithuania, his local library and newspaper, the New York Times, my website of family photos, and a page about the history of his hometown.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:22 AM on February 12, 2006

Good for you and your grandad!

The Library of Congress has a lot of neat exhibition type website based on their archives. In particular American Memory
and Exhibitions.
The sites are multi-media so he can see and hear history. Exploring these sites may also help him explore using the internet.
posted by TheLibrarian at 10:22 AM on February 12, 2006

Teach him some Google Fu ! :)
posted by lobstah at 10:22 AM on February 12, 2006

Local news sites are good. Also, snopes.
posted by 6:1 at 10:23 AM on February 12, 2006

Biology I Animations
posted by orthogonality at 10:24 AM on February 12, 2006

I agree with 6:1 about snopes.
It will be good for him to have a resource about some of the more unsavory aspects of the web. Especially if he is using email and getting spammed, etc.
posted by TheLibrarian at 10:27 AM on February 12, 2006

No brainer.
Ask Metafilter. There'll always be something there that he might enjoy in any given day.
posted by filmgeek at 10:28 AM on February 12, 2006

I don't think they're specific to his age, but general news sites like NYTimes, PBS, local news and weather, etc. are of interest to everyone. Does he have any particular hobbies or interests?

AARP has a great site, including a learning technology and a fun and games section. Google searching for "sites for seniors" turns up a lot of junk, but it's worth a look.

Reality is that even for a lot of benign sites he is going to have to register. My suggestion would be to set him up with a "spam" email address and on an index card that is always by the computer, give him a fake name, username, password, address, birthdate, phone, etc. to use when he has to register on those sites.
posted by jerryg99 at 10:39 AM on February 12, 2006

J-Walk blog Always something of interest for evryone.
posted by Neiltupper at 10:45 AM on February 12, 2006

* wikipedia of course
* Ask MetaFilter - he probably has a boatload of experience and insight that could help others, plus Google Answers
* News, of course - FoxNews, CNN, Jewish Wold Review
* Sports, of course - foxsports, espn, Yahoo Sports, Sports Illustrated
* Directories - Langenburg, Yahoo Local, Google Local
* Reference Stuff - RefDesk, OneLook, Bartleby, Internet Public Library, LII
* Religious - Bible Study Tools, BibleGateway, Crosswalk, Torah, Chabad, Jewish Encyclopedia
* Search - Google, Jeeves, Yahoo
* Money, Investments - Clark Howard, Fool, Yahoo Finance
* Humor - Scrappleface, Borowitz Report, Cox & Forkum
* Health - WebMD, Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, NIH Senior Health, Medline Plus Senior Health
posted by mumeishi at 10:46 AM on February 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

Wikipedia and Salon (although it may be a little spicy for him, so perhaps The Guardian)
posted by rinkjustice at 11:09 AM on February 12, 2006

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear has lots of links to old-time radio sites. And a second for the Library of Congress. Depending on what's available on radio in his area, he might enjoy options for listening to unusual radio stations online. The NPR and BBC archives are great, too.
posted by mediareport at 11:19 AM on February 12, 2006

If you tell us a bit more about his interests, that might help as well. Is he interested in science, e.g.?
posted by mediareport at 11:21 AM on February 12, 2006

There's a lot of good advice here. I'd like to add that you can really help him out by zeroing in on how he likes to browse. For example, if he were in a library with time to kill, how would he amuse himself? Sit down with some magazines or an encyclopedia and leaf through till something grabbed his interest? Call to mind a particular Civil War battle and look it up? Or would he park himself in section 920 and pick out a biography?

If he's excited about snopes and NPR and the other great sites mentioned above, you're golden. If not, then lobstah is absolutely right: the sooner he gets comfortable with using a search engine, the more fun he'll have.
posted by wryly at 11:57 AM on February 12, 2006

Astronomy Picture of the Day might be a good idea.
posted by rycee at 11:57 AM on February 12, 2006

Thanks for all the comments already. Library of Congress is a GREAT idea that never occured to me, though I have spent many an hour there. The radio show download sites are also intriguing -- something I've never really looked into.

jerryg99 - I realize that you are right about the registering thing, and I thought about setting him up with a spam email address/identity and/or the bugmenot extension. It will be interesting to see if his sense of honesty (I suspect he will be aghast at the idea of entering fake data) will trump his privacy fears.

klarck mentioned WWII sites, and while he is a vet, he and I have spent some time googling for his old unit (a US Army field hospital in England) with little luck. Does anyone know of resources or google tips for tracking down those types of sites?

Two more interests of his that I've just thought of: Italian opera and those sort of old-timey Henny Youngman-esque jokester comedians -- especially Irish ones. Any leads there?
posted by Rock Steady at 11:57 AM on February 12, 2006

My grandmother loves McSweeney's.
posted by Evstar at 12:04 PM on February 12, 2006

My grandfather loves the Smithsonian sites and National Geographic. I'd also second the vote for the Library of Congress mentioned above.
posted by gyrom at 12:14 PM on February 12, 2006

I like Weather Underground. I have a paid ($5.00 a year) membership that gets rid of the ads. On the left side of the page I have my favorite cities saved, places where family and friends live, camping destinations etc. Gives me a nice sense of being in touch with loved ones far away.
posted by jvilter at 12:15 PM on February 12, 2006

Health - WebMD, Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, NIH Senior Health, Medline Plus Senior Health

Depending upon how technologically adept his home state is, adding the appropriate Aging Administration might be worthwhile. At the very least it may point you towards other interesting stuff.

(Also, the New York Public Library Digital Gallery is a very easy site to get sucked into for hours and hours.)
posted by Vervain at 12:49 PM on February 12, 2006

Your concern for your grandfather is admirable. Bringing the trust of the"greatest generation" to the cat and mouse game of the internet is a challenge.
Is your grandfather a card player? Could conjuring up an alternate personality be presented to him as a way of keeping his "cards close to his chest" because the others are definitely trying to peek at them?
Is he a reader? He is surely aware of the many authors who chose nom de plumes - why shouldn't he?
Also, there is the fallback postion of need to know. Millions of people who disguise their identities do not need to know his. If grndmother is still a factor, he should realize that he exposes her also by giving out too much information.
posted by Cranberry at 1:00 PM on February 12, 2006

From last week's NYTimes, there's Opercast, a guide to opera broadcasts online, with a page called Internet Radio for Simpletons, as well as Operabase and a couple of other online classical links.
posted by mediareport at 1:05 PM on February 12, 2006

Speaking of NYTimes--Bugmenot.
posted by 6:1 at 1:17 PM on February 12, 2006

Discussion forums of some kind. One of the strengths of the internet is the ability to make connections with lots of people. And then flame them. Eg. my mother is an avid gardener and started discussing gardening on a gardening site that also happens to foster lots of off-topic discussion. This has lead to many an enjoyable night of flaming people for being too green or for being too stupid. Usenet still has a lot to offer, and hooking him up with some sort of newsgroup reading ability and subscriptions to choice groups like soc.history.what-if might prove worthwhile.
posted by insomnus at 2:09 PM on February 12, 2006

Any chance he'd like the Internet Movie Database?

The New Scientist latest headlines.
posted by Aknaton at 3:34 PM on February 12, 2006

The older folks I work with learning new computer stuff love the IMDB. Even though it's got a lot of ads, being able to click through the name of one movie actor they liked to see every other movie they've been in is like total magic, and helpful for thinking about newer movies, newer actors etc. Other favorites are the local library sites, library archives like the ones already mentioned [NYPL and LoC] and you should peek around a little to see if there is a good digital archive of the place he grew up or a place that was meaningful to him -- alma mater, summer vacation location etc. Being able to really highlight why the Internet is worth a damn is easier if people can see stuff from their lives reflected back at them.

I spend as lot of time with seniors doing some guided surfing where they think about things they'd like to look up online [health info, local info, nosey lookup type info] and then I show them how I'd go about looking for it. Sometimes it's hard when people get their heart set on finding their grandparents' obituary or something, it's best to start general.

Also if you have a Flickr site or other place where you put your own content, consider making it something he can look at as well. If you don't live nearby I'd seriously consider an email account [or sykype is even better if he's got a computer that can easily interface with it] just so the two of you can trade messages, it doesn't have to be anything where you trade sensitive information.

Lastly, consider getting him a trackball in addition to or instead of a mouse. One of the hardest things for seniors to manage as novice computer users is the whole "hold the mouse still and then click twice really fast on the left button but NOT the right button" This is especially true if he has any motor skill impairment. Trackballs let people move the cursor (think about loading the large cursor set, btw) to the right place on the screen, and then click without having to also hold the mouse still -- very handy. Laptops with touchpads are also pretty good with this, but consider disabling the feature where they can click on the touchpad as well as the buttons.

In general, I start with Wikipedia often to find good concrete links on a topic. The site itself is pretty interesting to someone who likes to browse, and there's usually a short list of places to get more information which are good starting points without being overwhelming.
posted by jessamyn at 6:29 PM on February 12, 2006

Thanks for the trackball recommendation, jessamyn. I never would have thought about that, but if he has any trouble with the mouse we'll give it a try.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:53 PM on February 12, 2006

a) Maybe some good ole free music (no reg. reqd), from the 20s to the 70s. No-nonsense freely downloadable mp3s, and the songs even have some old rustic phonographic quality noise. But not too much. (mediareport, thanks for that thrilling days of yesteryear link)

b) Look, there was no Onion during yr grandpa's heydays. It was all about war, war and more wars. But they do have a This Day in History section. I'm sure he'll enjoy a lot of stories from there, if he is into that kind of humour. But I don't think that's a permalink, so he might have to grab that story everytime off the front page.
posted by forwebsites at 12:08 AM on February 13, 2006

It's somewhat amusing - and you may not want to think of your grandfather in this way...but if he's anything like my 90 year old grandfather, he will be absolutely astounded by the amount and scope of pr0n.

I was taken aback by this until I thought about it some. I mean, he grew up in rural Texas picking cotton in the 20's. It's not like he was "all about teh boobies," he was just plain fascinated that such was there.
posted by kaseijin at 6:33 AM on February 13, 2006

Another mouse suggestion is simply switch the mouse to be one click rather than two. My grandparents were so much happier not having to double click.

And a website I like is family search -- if he likes history in the sense of researching his ancestors.
posted by mbrubeck at 9:21 AM on February 13, 2006

I've started a website for the elderly or anyone else who can't or doesn't want to bother with typing in web addresses. It has links to all the popular web sites organized by subject matter. Users simply click on an icon to be taken to the site.

Also a mobile version
posted by chuckp909 at 7:17 PM on October 26, 2006

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