Aging Parents Who Work and Computer Comfort

Heads up if you work in your older parents’ business and they depend on you for all things computer

When older people do office work, we take for granted that they know how to use computers.  But we can’t take it for granted when they work in a family business with their grown sons and daughters for whom computers are a way of life.

Our apartment renovation is a case in point. The building-renovation policy allows work until September 16th. The clock is ticking and our highly regarded renovation company should have already finished. While unforeseen problems are inherent in any project, many could have been quickly and capably handled if the older generation (founders of the company, still working with their technologically-capable Boomer sons) instinctively used computers instead of writing everything down in longhand as they’ve done for so many years.

I’ve posted about 60-year-olds who cavalierly say they don’t use a computer and don’t plan to. Their children take care of anything, that requires computer expertise, for them. One wonders: If we raise children– doing for them instead of teaching them to do for themselves–wouldn’t we, in effect, be crippling them? Does this carry over to older people and computer capability?

The older dads at the renovation company are so accustomed to depending on their sons for what they consider their few technology needs, that they’re oblivious to the wasted time and significant errors they themselves generate.

  • Think: handwriting selections, styles, colors, sizes model numbers etc. which get lost or misread and need to be redone–again in longhand.
  • Think about making simple changes, for example, in a kitchen plan, then Fed-Exing the plan without realizing it can be reduced by a copier and emailed or faxed almost instantaneously.
  • When I mentioned to one owner he had a machine with the technology to do the above, it came as a complete surprise.
  • And emailing specific measurements to this dad so there would be no error, didn’t work. He either forgot to forward my email, with the measurements to the cabinet company…or doesn’t know how to forward an email.

I have great empathy for older people/aging parents; love it when they’re still carrying on with their lives.  And I’m not convinced it’s the fault of mentally able aging parents if they don’t use a computer.  If their children do it for them, why should parents bother to learn?

Is there any reason for older non-computer users to question whether or not they’re doing their best if they were at the top of their game in the past without using a computer? Do they realize that in today’s world they can’t deliver as quickly or as accurately?  Do they feel bad when they make needless mistakes? Most of us do.  But it’s especially sad when using a computer could have prevented those mistakes and “saved face.”

It’s sad to see proud older men needing to apologize, scrambling to come up with quick fixes, and laughingly saying these problems are “giving them a heart attack,” when being comfortable using a computer would have eliminated many of the problems.

To help capable parents age well, especially if they’re working in a family business, doesn’t it make sense to equip them for this century? Helpful as it may seem if we take care of their tech needs, it’s only a patch–temporary help. Is it crippling?

Next (Tuesday): Teaching older adults to use a computer.