My 85 Year Old Dad is Finally On Line!

I’ve just returned from a visit to see my 85 year old parents. If you will recall reading past blogs, they are stuck in a 1970’s time warp in their modern inventions, décor, and many other ways. I guess this is a good thing though, because though they are considered old, they are still living in the same home and able to maintain independent living.

My dad’s mind is sharp as can be and he has been curious about the world beyond his little 1970’s bubble. Though they don’t have cable TV and never have,  the box they were required to get when TV went digital allows him to have additional channels and he is using them to their full advantage – speaking excitedly about an old movie channel and an old TV show channel. (Antenna TV)

In the past, I have taken him to the library to show him email and other Internet wonders, trying to convince him that he could keep in touch better with his grandkids if he only could access the Internet. (He has a cell phone but no Texting plan – and you know kids today – they do not deal with regular phone conversations) I also showed him my stories online and how easy it would be to access since I stopped sending them hardcopies.

However, the trip to the library didn’t convince my dad that he needed a computer. He found the computer confusing and thought there were too many steps to remember. He doubted he could do it all without intensive training.

One day I showed him the features of my iPhone and he went nuts over Pandora and especially You Tube. As I have written many times before, he is a music fan of the highest order and passed his love of music to me and I in turn passed that on to my kids.

My dad upgraded from records to a cassette player, to a Walkman type of CD player in order to listen to his music. But after you listen to the same CDs over and over, it gets boring. My dad has never known “music on demand.” He has never had an MP3 player or iPod, so he had no idea that you can just play one SONG after another by different artists, all in a row rather than listening to the entire CD of an artist. He had no idea that so much music – particularly music he loved from the 40’s and 50’s – was available for FREE online.

This opened a new world to him, so I just had to make that accessible and easy for him somehow.

My husband Gary and I researched for an easy to use, push button device that could connect to the Internet. Though I wasn’t going to spring for service in his house (this is a man without cable TV don’t forget) I wanted to get him a device that he could use at a WIFI hotspot. We selected the Kindle Fire, set up all his favorite channels, gave him an email and Facebook account, and researched where near his home he could get free WIFI.

Turns out that a McDonald’s a couple of blocks away had it. PERFECT!

During my visit, I presented dad with the Kindle and spent a couple of hours tutoring him. We got to where he could turn it on by pushing a button and then swiping it. I showed him his home page (which he could push a drawing of a house to get to) and told him which tab was Facebook, which was his email, which was Pandora, and which was You Tube. I also showed him Google, and encouraged him to ask a question and let Google answer. I told him that there are online encyclopedias that answer trivia questions in less than a minute and he was amazed.

Then I let him play with it, guiding him all the way. I can’t tell begin to describe the joy and wonder this new toy gave to him on this day together, but I will try.

First we played with You Tube. He spoke of his two very favorite songs, one from the early 50’s and one from the mid-50’s. We brought both of them up right away, and he enjoyed them so much he was beaming. He saw the word Tampico and told me that there was a song from Stan Kenton orchestra in the 40’s called Tampico and I instructed him to punch it in. The original version came up and he sang along, thrilled beyond all measure.

His typing was awkward and time consuming on the little virtual keypad, so he has a ways to go with it, but I know he will find hours of incredible enjoyment from this device.

Next we visited Facebook. I showed him how to respond to people, search for people, friend people, and most importantly message people. He immediately sent a message to his grandkids and hopes to hear back. We then reviewed everyone’s page he would like to look at regularly – mine, my children’s, my cousins, and I showed him how to see posted photos. He was again so joyous to see all those photos of loved ones.

When he was a bit over-saturated, we left the WIFI hotspot for home again. He turned to me and told me how amazing his Kindle is and thanked me once again and said, “You don’t know how happy you have made me with this.” He went on to say it was the happiest day he could remember in a long time.

We all crave connectedness, don’t we? In this age of wireless communication, my dad now has a vehicle to stay connected, and to find entertainment too.

He’s not ready to email yet, but he can message on Facebook for now. He’s not quite ready to surf either, but he has a few things at his fingertips online and I hope he continues to play with it and use it. (He has plenty of free time on his hands so that’s not a problem!)

I will continue to tutor by phone and hopefully, his confidence will grow that he can use it comfortably and find what he needs to find. The fact that he was willing to learn something new and overwhelming at age 85 was heartening. Never once did he tell me it was too difficult, or that I shouldn’t try to teach an old dog new tricks. He was a patient student!

If you’ve never watched a whole new world open up to someone, I must say, it is a very moving thing to witness. I was teary-eyed at his appreciation and wonder.


  • One of your best blogs, Arlene. I got teary-eyed reading 🙂

  • What a wonderful story! You’re lucky to still have your dad – I lost mine three years ago. Unlike your father, my parents were stuck in the 60’s. My parents did not get cable until they moved out of their rowhouse and moved further up northeast to a condo where I snuck in cable. And though he initially complained, boy did my father love his cable, espically the History channel where he could watch WWII shows. He was afraid of a cell phone, so I taught my mother how to use it, but he wouldn’t even touch it. Now that my mom is alone, she loves her cable tv, but is at a lost to do anything but turn it off and on. I wouldn’t even consider a computer. A suggestion for you – write everything down and leave it for your father. I find that even when I explain something to my mother, like the new captioned phone I got her, invariably she will forget, or be afraid she’ll forget, and ask me over and over. So now I leave her notes. I hope your father enjoys his new view of the world as much as you enjoyed bringing it to him.

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