It’s not only the technology, it’s the help that sets it apart.
Last weekend internet service was out in our neighborhood. Late Sunday afternoon I decided I’d venture out, in spite of heavy rains, to finish the “senior’s insecurities” post I began on Saturday. An Apple store was closer than a Starbucks, so it became my destination.
The store was swarming with human beings–I immediately thought of swarming bees. Surely they weren’t all last-minute Mother’s Day shoppers. My Mac, 3 1/2 years-old, no longer qualifies for the One to One Plan. All I needed was a table and place to sit.
I noticed an oblong table with several empty stools on one side and plopped myself and my Mac down, uncertain of how welcome I’d be as a “squatter.” A “trainer” at the end of the table came over and asked what he could help me with. I explained my plight. He nicely pointed to the next table over, explaining it should remain mostly empty, while the table he was covering was for individuals needing help with projects. Several people were already there.
Moving my plastic-covered wet umbrella (they provided plastic covers for all umbrellas before we entered) and my plastic bag-covered Mac + rain gear wasn’t the most graceful maneuver; but I sat on the stool, settled my things and opened the computer, whereupon I glanced up and realized that trainer had come over to me. “Do you need a charger?” he asked. And before I could tell him I’d brought mine he told me there was an electrical outlet with a charger about 10 inches from me (under the table) and I should feel free to use it.
How welcome I felt! How thoughtful of the “trainer” to come over to tell me there was a charger nearby. I’d forgotten how user-friendly Apple Stores are. (I often frequented 4 stores in 3 states when I initially purchased my Mac.) No matter how busy and chaotic a store may seem, you are taken care of in a timely manner and never feel you’ve been abandoned.
For aging parents and grandparents who show interest, try a trip to the Apple Store and play with the iPad. Aging parents don’t need an expensive model. There’s also free “Getting Started on the iPad” help. (The salesperson will demonstrate how easy it is to make an appointment when the purchase is made). That said, I believe there are several months of free Apple Store help after making a purchase, but definitely ask to confirm.
Old people–or anyone–can learn and get help 7 days a week all year if they wish. And it’s this service aspect that I think makes the big difference for older people who may be less confident about technology. Initially it’s peace of mind knowing they can’t easily mess up or break an iPad by doing something “wrong”…and if something does happen, help is as near as the nearest Apple store. While I like the products, I think it’s the service that’s unequalled– inexpensive, and free for certain things–that sets it apart from every other manufacturer.
For example, when I know I’ve done something stupid and think a techie can solve my problem in a minute because it’s so stupid–I take my Mac to the Apple store and–if the greeter isn’t busy–tell him/her my problem. Without even going into the store, my problem has been solved–at stores in 2 different states in the last year.
I pay extra not to take ads on my blog. But because of the service/help aspect I think having a smart parent go computer-less when the iPad could change the game, so to speak, is leaving a large segment of the population computer-illiterate. Clearly other tablets have similar capabilities, but the iPad gets my top billing today because of the service and resulting peace of mind–especially for older people.
And speaking of “paying,” it’s the plan–not the product–that can be very expensive. If adult children have a plan, older parents can often be included in that plan at substantial savings.
(Reminder: I’m not contradicting the advice in earlier posts this month when I caution about being certain a parent has some interest in having a computer before simply thrusting it upon him or her. That said, I think there’s a lot to be said for a tablet helping parents age well–if they will give it a try.)
Related: The iPad for Dad series, click As Our Parents Age.
I have to give my mom credit for wanting to sharpen her computer skills. I took her to our local Mac Store where I tried to steer her toward an iPad. I found that her arthritic fingers had a hard time aiming for the right tools on screen. The concept of virtual keys was too hard for her to understand. We settled for a macbook air after all was said and done.
Over a year was spent teaching her the controls, and the simple difference between the world wide web and email. To her, it was all the same screen.
We made adjustments such as using a mouse only. Her arthritic fingers would slightly touch the mousepad and send the cursor into another unanticipated spot. I learned how to turn that off.
The traditional size and color of type (like this grey) became a problem when reading email. I would constantly have to adjust the zoom level of text. I never found the option for that to stick. The concept of closing, minimizing and maximizing windows (red yellow green buttons) and their unadjustable size for easy aim, was also a constant hurdle.
Ultimately she gave up and I now read her email out loud when I visit.
Thanks for sharing that experience, Bill. Arthritic hands and fingers do cause problems. Did you ask anyone at the store about that? If not, I will soon since there’s a store not for from me.