Friday, June 4, 2010

Older Persons and Computers by Susanne Jayawickreme

We are meeting my Mother via Skype. The retired lady on the right and her husband have also learned to Skype in the meantime.

My mother is 87 year old, born in 1923. She is still very active, lives in an apartment, still drives her car to do her shopping, plays in 2 bridge clubs and does an hour of long walking in various shopping malls every day.

Since my mother feels uneasy, walking in the forest nearby, she started driving to a different shopping mall every day independent of the weather condition. She takes a shopping cart to have support during her hour-long walk, enjoys being among people, and strolling through the shops and departments. She feels safe in the case that she fell or felt unwell all of a sudden etc, because there are so many people all over the place and security cameras, which ensure that help will be there for her immediately. Only heavy snow fall and really bad weather would keep her away from her daily shopping mall fun.

My mother played cards all her life. She used to play bridge in 3 different clubs until recently, but 2 clubs are left only as my mother survived the members of the other club. My mother loves playing cards. The youngest bridge player in my mother's 2 groups is 22 years junior to her. They all love my mother, her good humour, optimistic spirit and her playing skills.

But a couple of years ago, my sister and I discovered the most admirable surprise my mother had in store for us when I visited Germany. I have been living in Sri Lanka since 1994 and I go back home to Germany once a year. My mother can't cope with long distance flights any longer. Therefore we had to rely on phone calls, which were faint and full of awful noises more often than not. When I returned home a couple of years ago, after coming home from the airport, my sister pointed to a brand new laptop waiting to be used in the centre of the dining table. After the long warm welcome, my mother smiled with a twinkle in her eye and said that she bought the laptop the day before my arrival so that I could teach her the basics during my stay in Germany. But most important for her was to learn how to Skype and to use the camera so that we can see each other when we speak together when I am abroad again. To cut a long story short: My then 85 years young mother made myself, my sister and her 3 grand children feel like fools when we saw how quickly she picked up the functions after my brother-in-law installed all the programs. When I left she even played cards online and she googles everything she wants to know now. Her grandchildren help out immediately when the laptop crashes, which hardly happens.

My mother and I enjoy seeing each other via skype.

My sister and her family take their laptops with them when they travel in order to be in visible touch with my mother. When my husband and I have visitors at home and where ever we travel we Skype with my mom, so that she can join us and be with us as often as possible. As my mother puts it, "The only thing missing is that we can't hug and touch each other." But be assured of all our flying kisses circling throughout cyberspace.

With her knowledge of computing my mother solves her homework she has to do for her memory training class. She googles and also skypes with me to solve word puzzles and together we crack other hard brain teasers. Her memory jogging friends call her to get the results and you guess it: her group is doing very well!

I would like to not only encourage older people to start computing, but also to get the entire families involved in the computer fun with grandparents and other older relatives. It could be such fun for several generations of the family. But most importantly, it helps to fight the loneliness of old people, as they can't move around like they used to, and due to the natural effects of old age which leave them with less and less friends to talk to.

My husband talks with my mother. A German friend looks on. He and his wife retired a long time ago and learned to Skype as soon as they returned to Germany.