Get grandma or grandpa online with a neat computer (or new software) as a great Christmas gift. Older people who are able to get online have less depression and feel less lonely; and using the internet helps their memories.
Two research studies have shown incredible benefits for older people who spend time online.
Help for Depression
A study by the Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal & Economic Public Policy Studies in Washington DC has proven that computer use decreases depression in seniors and older Baby Boomers by 20%. When seniors connect to others through social networks, they feel less lonely, according to Lamont Wood in his article “The Digital Divide: Why Grandma Should Get Online” (2009). Loneliness can cause or exaggerate many types of depression.
Using the Internet Increases Brain Power
A different research study, at UCLA, has determined that older people (middle aged and up), who go online, have increased activity in the areas of the brain that control language, memory, and visual ability. This helps parents or grandparents stay mentally fit.
In the internet article “Get Granny to Google: How the Internet Helps Older Brains (2009)”, Jolie O’Dell explains that when old people are “using the internet, particularly search, (it) causes enhanced neural stimulation leading to better reasoning and decision-making.”
Computers and Seniors
Sometimes seniors are afraid to use computers because they have no experience with them. Old people can be afraid of breaking the computer or they can be overwhelmed by new concepts and terminology.
One of the best Christmas presents that a grandchild can give to a senior is to take the time to teach grandma or grandpa how to get started using a computer. There are also formal classes for computer newbies, and these classes are often at senior centers.
Family members should gently tell grandma and grandpa that it’s virtually impossible to break the new gadget.
Here is an interview with a granny who loves computers.
Cost of Buying a Computer
Anyone who wants to help granny or gramps get online but is worried about the cost should get together with siblings and pool their money to buy the computer as a group present. Most grandparents would love to have an easy way to stay in touch with their children and grandkids. It’s a win-win present for everyone in the family.
Sometimes there is one family member who is good with hardware and software and can come up with an inexpensive way to cobble together a functional computer. Or, another idea is to take a grandparent to the library once a week, so he or she can use a computer for free. If library computers are difficult to get onto, offer to drive granny or grandpa to an inexpensive computer class for seniors.
Most of the time, seniors and Boomers are able to use a regular computer or an older, slower computer that a family member is ready to throw out or buy one on eBay.
Some older people have difficulty seeing small pictures and fine print, or they have problems using a keyboard or mouse. Both of these minor details can be overcome by retrofitting an old computer or by getting a new computer, made for special needs.
Computer for Christmas
A good computer for a senior citizen or an older Boomer should have a big monitor and an easy-to-use keyboard. There are all kinds of improvements in computer accessibility. Here are a few:
- Easy-to-read and easy-to-type larger keyboards
- Alternative keyboards
- New easy-to-use versions of the traditional mouse
- Natural Reader Text to Speech (free download)
- Bigger Monitor Screens
- Software to increase size and readability
Some products for older computer users are hardware and some are software. Here are just a few of the many products available:
- The Go Computer: A plug and go computer designed for seniors.
- BigTrack Trackball: An easier mouse for people who have difficulty with fine motor skills.
- BigKeys Keyboard: Larger keys for help with motor skills or low visibility.
- Big Screen Live: Software to turn any computer into a “Senior Computer”.
- Remote Desktop Access: A way for younger family members to gain access to the senior’s computer and offer computer help from another location.
- Microsoft: Microsoft has Accessibility Resource Centers throughout the US.
Computers are such a fun way to keep in touch with family members. Find the family geek and have him or her help with this great Christmas present. Teaching grandparents to use a computer is a natural way to have kids and oldsters spend quality time together.