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It’s your granddad’s birthday — but what should you buy him? You could get him socks (again), some gardening equipment, or perhaps a large bottle of whisky… Or you could buy him a Chromebook.

Elderly People and Technology

Chromebooks have often been criticized Chromebooks – Useful or Useless? Chromebooks – Useful or Useless? My wife gave me a choice of gadgets for Christmas – a new MP3 player, or a Chromebook? Read More as being too ‘bare’, unable to perform tasks that most frequent computer users take for granted. While you can argue all day about whether or not that’s true, theirs is no denying that they are not as full-featured as a Windows, Mac, or Linux machine.

For an older person, that could be a blessing. Although it would be remiss to suggest that all elderly people struggle with technology, there is no denying that a huge swathe of them don’t use traditional machines to their fullest, and struggle to rectify anything that goes wrong.

If my mid-sixties mum is a typical example, then there will be plenty of people remotely logging into their elderly relatives’ machines on a near-weekly basis to do something as simple as delete a program or install an update. It provides me with no end of merriment and mirth at what I perceive as her incompetence, but from her side it’s immensely frustrating — she just wants to get on and use her computer, not spend time dealing with obstacles that she deems to be insignificant and unimportant.

Here are some reasons, therefore, why your elderly friends and relatives should be on a Chromebook…

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The Internet is Front and Centre

To say that today’s Chromebooks are merely glorified web browsers Chromebooks Don't Work Offline? Debunking the Myths Chromebooks Don't Work Offline? Debunking the Myths One of the biggest criticisms aimed at Google's Chromebooks is that they are online-only machines – ergo, no Internet, no point. How true is this statement? Read More in disingenuous and shows a lack of understanding about the platform. That said, there is no denying that they are built and designed with fast and easy Internet access as their main feature.

chromebook-menu

For an elderly person this is a good thing. It’s important to think about what most older people want computers for — whilst it’s not fair or accurate to make sweeping generalizations, it’s reasonable to say that most of them see the Internet as the most appealing aspect of usage.

To once again use my mum as an example, her main reasons for using computers are all Internet based – online banking, email, news, some light social media usage, and recipes. My father, who is of a similar age, is slightly more advanced, doing some basic Photoshop editing of old family photos and playing with his music library — but both of these are possible on a Chromebook.

picmonkey

If you think about it, you can watch movies on a Chromebook Watching Offline Movies From Google Play? You CAN Do That On A Chromebook! Watching Offline Movies From Google Play? You CAN Do That On A Chromebook! Today we take a look at one area where a lot of people still harbour many misconceptions about Chromebooks - offline movie playback. Read More , edit photos on a Chromebook Edit Photos Just Like In Photoshop: You CAN Do That On A Chromebook! Edit Photos Just Like In Photoshop: You CAN Do That On A Chromebook! The latest instalment in our mini-series looks at the wide choice of high quality photo editors that are available to all Chrome users. Read More , and make video calls on a Chromebook Need To Use Skype? You CAN Do That On A Chromebook Need To Use Skype? You CAN Do That On A Chromebook A lot of people like Chromebook. A lot of people love Skype. For those of you out there who have been told Skype can't be used on Chromebook, I'm going to show you it can... Read More . Google’s office suite provides all the functionality that Microsoft Office does, and if you’re sufficiently tech-savvy yourself you can even install Linux on their Chromebook How to Install Linux on a Chromebook How to Install Linux on a Chromebook Do you need Skype on your Chromebook? Do you miss not having access to games through Steam? Are you pining to use VLC Media Player? Then start using Linux on your Chromebook. Read More so they can have access to almost any program they need that isn’t offered natively.

In fact, here’s a challenge for you — think of your own elderly parents or grandparents. What do they do on a computer that they couldn’t do on a Chromebook? Now think of all the issues they face on a Windows or Mac machine that they wouldn’t face on a Chromebook. Let us know your thoughts in the comments at the end.

Updates

Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Mac OS X Mountain Lion, OS X Mavericks, OS X Yosemite, Android KitKat, Android Lolli… You get the idea. Keeping your PC, phone, tablet, and software all updated to the latest version can be a full-time job in itself.

If you then consider that there’s also incremental upgrades such as those offered through Windows Update and Mac’s App Store — all of which have an annoying propensity to fail, then you end up with a situation where you just give up. We’ve covered the importance of updating Why Do Apps Nag Me To Update & Should I Listen? [Windows] Why Do Apps Nag Me To Update & Should I Listen? [Windows] Software update notifications seem like a constant companion on every computer. Every app wants to update regularly, and they nag us with notifications until we give in and update. These notifications can be inconvenient, especially... Read More in detail, but suffice it to say that not updating operating systems and software packages leaves you vulnerable to an array of security issues.

Imagine, therefore, how confusing this minefield can be to someone who has only started dabbling with computers in the last few years and has a very limited understanding of the underlying processes. Remember, for the most part elderly people are not technology experts, they are end-users.

win-update

How great would it be if they never had to worry about updating anything? How much more secure would they be if they got updates on a near-weekly basis, meaning any security flaws or loopholes were dealt with almost instantaneously? That’s what a Chromebook offers — they’ll see an icon prompting them to restart and it’s done, no clicking anything, no choosing updates, no download failures — it’s fast, easy, and secure.

Viruses

Both my parents are terrible at installing programs. My mum wouldn’t know where to start and my dad is forever installing bundled toolbars and software.

They are also both terrible at discerning the legitimate from the fake when online. Tech savvy readers know that a bright green flashing download button isn’t really going to download anything but malware and viruses, however my parents — and plenty like them — don’t realize this.

Thankfully, Chromebooks are almost immune to viruses Securing Your Chromebook With Two Easy Tweaks Securing Your Chromebook With Two Easy Tweaks One of the most touted benefits of a Chromebook is its security. But are there any steps that owners can take that will improve and enhance the current level of protection? Read More , and the Chrome Web Store makes it impossible to accidentally installed bundled junk. Although Windows has plenty of anti-virus options Windows Defender: 7 Things You Must Know About Microsoft's Antivirus Solution Windows Defender: 7 Things You Must Know About Microsoft's Antivirus Solution Is Microsoft's built-in security good enough? Microsoft continuously improves its security tools. We'll show you the upsides and downsides of Windows Defender in Windows 8, Read More , and Mac users will (incorrectly) claim their machines are immune, the fact is that Chrome’s stateless system and its multiple layers of defence leave it as the most secure operating system on the market by some distance. Of course, if something does slip through the net a simple “Powerwash” will automatically delete and resync Two Ways To Reformat Your Chromebook: Powerwash & Full Recovery Two Ways To Reformat Your Chromebook: Powerwash & Full Recovery One of a Chromebook's main selling points is its stateless drive's provision of security and stability – but what are your choices when something goes wrong? You have two options. Read More all your data.

It’s one less thing for an elderly end-user to worry about.

System Settings

If you ask my mother to open the Windows Control Panel Unlock Windows Potential: Control Panel Demystified Unlock Windows Potential: Control Panel Demystified If you want to be the master of your Windows experience, the Control Panel is where it's at. We untangle the complexity of this power tool. Read More she’d just give you a blank look. My dad thinks “Windows Defender” is a footballer and that “Storage Spaces” is where he keeps his tools in the garden shed.

So much of the “under-the-bonnet” stuff is unnecessary to a lot of people. No doubt many or our readers (and authors) get great enjoyment from tinkering settings and streamlining everything, but for users that don’t understand these parts of computing, advanced settings in the Control Panel and elsewhere just provide another potential way to “mess things up”. They don’t have enough knowledge to use them to their advantage.

Chromebooks cut out the confusion. Of course there are some settings, but nothing really needs to be changed for the machine to work perfectly out of the box. Contrast this to the battle you have when you buy a new Windows machine – it can takes days to filter out all the bloatware How To Remove Bloatware & Avoid It On New Laptops How To Remove Bloatware & Avoid It On New Laptops Tired of software you never wanted consuming your laptop's resources? Your computer isn't free ad space. Here's how to get rid of bloatware. Read More and get it set up the way you want it.

What About a Tablet?

Some people will argue that a tablet is equally useful for the older generations. Tablets might have their place, but they don’t offer some of the more practical benefits of having a computer – no keyboard, printing is difficult (if not impossible), they cannot be connected to a TV as easily, and the screens are much smaller.

Would You Buy a Chromebook for an Elderly Relative?

What do you think? Can you see the advantages of a Chromebook for an elderly person? Have your parents and grandparents already used one? What did they think of it?

Perhaps you disagree with everything in this piece? Would you prefer your family kept using Windows and Apple computers? What advantages to they offer older people over Chromebooks?

We’d love to hear your thoughts — let us know your feedback in the comments section below.

Image Credits: senior couple using laptop via Shutterstock

  1. MJ
    June 6, 2016 at 1:15 am

    I was really hoping for some helpful and insightful info on the use and cost of Chromebooks for my 86 year old mother whom has repeatedly infected and effed up her laptop to the point that we had to replace the hard drive!!! But as usual, the bickering has turned me off from reading past the first bunch of comments. Thanks for nothing people who got snitty because they were offended that someone thought their age meant no tech-savvy. Think I will go elsewhere for some genuine feedback..

  2. 123
    May 9, 2016 at 12:43 am

    I've had it with my grandpa's computer problems. He has a Windows 7 laptop in a dock, and he screws it up so much that I (the family helpdesk) have fixed it enough that I am considering buying a Chromebook for him. Increased calls when he first gets it, but payoff imminent when he stops calling me in a panic every once in a while because he's screwed something else up (mostly deleting his FreeCell shortcut) or gotten a virus. This has happened so much that my parents joke about it.

  3. Joe Wingard
    February 7, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    Living several thousand miles away from my 85 year old mother has had me contemplating the chrome project for a few years. Up until now she has been using a win 7 laptop which I maintain and "fix" via skype and team viewer. All of the pop ups, and messages that she is in danger if she doesn't install something drove her crazy and me being so far away made maintaining the system a nightmare. I needed to find a solution. Apple - too expensive. Windows 10 - more of the same, Linux - just too complicated. She just needs to write some documents, see some pictures follow the grandkids on fb, listen to her favorite radio programs, work with mails, see her bank account and just do a little browsing. She was ready to throw her windows machine in the trash with all of the technical disturbances.

    Hence welcome Chromebooks - For the past year, I have been giving the chromebook and chrome box a trial run in our home. I even supplied one to my 76 year old father in law who is a little tech savvy. We have been using them to all extents possible and without any problems. In fact, going over to chromebooks has made life easier. Sure ther is no skype but there is Hangouts, no Teamviewer but googles own remote desktop. No local printer but a wireless network printer is an inexpensive solution for google printing. Chromebooks just work!! For the average user there is simply no reason not to.

    So on Monday my mother is getting a chromebook ordered from Amazon to replace the old windows 7 laptop. I hope she is as excited as I am

    • Joe Wingard
      July 23, 2016 at 6:47 am

      Update - My Mother received the chromebook promptly from amazon. I was able to adjust her settings by logging into her account on my own chromebook, save them and these settings were available to her the first time she logged in. She was able to make the connection to her wireless router with just a little help over the phone (though she claims not to be technically savvy, several years with a windows machine has taught her many things) After 6 months with the Chromebook, It was clear, that even though the Chromebook "just works", it took a while to get used to the change. It was the change to another way og working that was and sometimes still is the biggest challenge. The thought that everything is save "in the cloud" and all apps work out of the chrome browser has been a little difficult to "remember" when coming from an old windows environment. Remember though that even todays windows and macs offer cloud based computing though not dependent of it. I miss the teamviewer access and think that skype was a little easier and more stable for her than Hangouts. She doesn't always register me calling through hangouts and sometimes I have to try several times even though she is sitting right in front of the laptop. Even though her old printer is wireless, it's not google print compatible so she is having to do without a printer until I visit her next time. Until then, she has found out how to save as pdf and either mail the document or send it to a neighbour for printing.
      All in all, the transition has been smooth and the chromebook has become the centrepiece for entertainment, information and communication. Even the recipe books aren't opened anymore. Googling for a recipe is so much easier

  4. David K. White
    May 30, 2015 at 9:37 pm

    Cloud print only works if you have a printer with the drivers installed on a PC on your network. You can't define a printer to the Chromebook/

    • Kelsey Tidwell
      June 6, 2015 at 2:45 am

      I just printed a couple invoices from my old Acer C710 to my Epson XP-310. And if I could remember exactly how I sat all that up a year ago, I'd tell ya'. :)

  5. Jim Langdon
    May 30, 2015 at 5:49 am

    I'm amused, as an 82-yr-old geek whenever some kid spouts off about how much I don't know about technology. For many years, I have been the tech expert in my family and have helped my three adult kids and many of my friends with computer problems. I regularly suggest apps which would be useful on their phones. My first PC ran MS-DOS and I have used every operating system from Microsoft up to and including Windows 10. I'm also proficient on OS-X, iOs, Linux and Android. I currently have a PC desktop, a Mac Mini, two laptops, two tablets (Nexus 7 and iPad, and two Android phones. I was the president of a local computer club, and one of its youngest members when I was only 75. I listen to maybe 15 tech podcasts every week while I'm at the gym or riding my bike. I look forward to learning something new every day. No rocking chairs for this old guy. I am on Twitter, where I've just begun using Periscope but I do draw the line at FaceBook. I really believe I would have died of boredom years ago if it weren't for technology, and especially the Internet. And I am not alone. But to be fair, there aren't that many of us old geeks. Maybe that's because there aren't that many old geezers around. : )

    • Raj
      April 15, 2016 at 1:06 pm

      Utterly inspirational Jim. I hope in 43 years I am still actively enjoying and making of the most of technology (geeking out) and staying active and avoiding whatever the equivalent of facebook will be in the future. You are a TOTAL DUDE. Raj

  6. David K. White
    May 30, 2015 at 1:27 am

    What do they do on a computer that they couldn’t do on a Chromebook? - - - PRINTING? Chromebooks are impossible to print from!

  7. DonGateley
    May 29, 2015 at 10:11 pm

    "if this machine (ASUS Chromebox) goes up in smoke for some reason, I just have to get another one. Log in, and you're right back where you were." A really, really important point for the group under discussion. Thanks.

  8. Robyn McIntyre
    May 29, 2015 at 9:33 pm

    My much older brother and sisters might be good candidates for a Chromebook. My brother is only 74, but he and my older sisters have no interest at all in tech, so I was disappointed but not surprised when he contacted me to tell me he'd fallen victim to the telephone call from Microsoft scam. At least, I thought, this gave me a chance to get his desktop to a shop where they could repair the damage and give it a tuneup. The amount of malware, spyware, and unpurged useless files was, I imagined, pretty horrific. The idea of him having a machine that affords him less opportunity to make trouble for himself is appealing as is the lower cost of a Chromebook. Thanks for the suggestion!

  9. erwintimmerman
    May 29, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    @Steve @Marte The writer repeatedly states that there are plenty of elderly people who have no problem with technology. I can concur because my 82-year-old father loves technology and is at home on macs, PCs and tablets. However, a majority of them is not, simple as that. That's not being condescending, it's being realistic. There is probably a ton of things these people are much better at then I am, technology is just not one of these things. No harm done. While I introduced my father to computers successfully, I tried to introduce my mother to a simple audio system with amplifier and a few audio components. She only got annoyed that she had to do and think of so much more (such as turning on the power and selecting the source) than just popping in a cassette and hitting "play", or just put a record on the turntable and the needle on the record, as she had always done on the stand alone boombox and stand alone record player. Some elderly people do NOT want to learn all the new stuff. That's perfectly fine, because why should they need to? It only frustrates them and makes them feel incompetent, which they are absolutely not, they are very competent, just not at some technology. It's good that some formerly complicated devices now have a simple alternative (such as chromebooks) to administer to these people. That way they can enjoy the benefits without suffering the complexity.

    • Dan Price
      May 29, 2015 at 9:12 pm

      Couldn't have put it better myself :)

  10. Steve Larek
    May 29, 2015 at 5:43 am

    Wow! You sure have a smug outlook regarding your parents' skill sets! I'm a few years younger than your folks, and I got MY folks going on a PC years ago. They're in their 80's and doing pretty well with their computers--they quit sharing pretty quickly! It takes a little time and willingness to learn. It also takes someone who's willing to teach without the condescension that was oozing from this article.

    • Dan Price
      May 29, 2015 at 9:33 pm

      My mum has had a computer since 2004, yet her skills with it are worse than ever. I've spent 1,000s of hours teaching her, writing step by step guides, and remotely supporting her, but she just doesn't improve.

    • DonGateley
      May 29, 2015 at 10:05 pm

      May I suggest that your sample set is far too small. I performed a function for a while that put me in close contact with a large number of older people, both geriatric and pre-geriatric, with whom I incidentally discussed computer use. If anything Dan understates the resistance and fear the huge majority have toward the tech. I would say that his parents are atypically open to the technology and have understanding considerably beyond the average. I see no condescension, just an acknowledgement of the reality of it. That personal contact has long had me contemplating what he discusses and his conclusions parallel mine almost exactly. I don't think he mentioned affordability, both initial and continuing, and that is a huge consideration for the group in general. Most of the affordable systems today have adequate power to perform their functions without any need for hardware upgrade for a long time and that is really important for them. Where you are absolutely spot on, however, is the strong need for teachers. Having a reduced function to teach opens that possibility for more who are willing and in a position to contribute both the education function and ongoing support. FWIW, I'm 70 and started in the field designing mainframes in 1967.

  11. Marte Brengle
    May 29, 2015 at 12:58 am

    Excuse me? I am mid-60s and people my age are not automatically clueless. Not to diss the Chromebook, but the attitude that says old people can't figures stuff out. Please consider this: Home computers were not even available till we were in our 30s or 40s and they were hellaciously expensive, so most of us weren't able to get one till even later in life. It's not something that was just part of the furniture when we were kids. So we have to learn about them in terms that WE understand, and a lot of younger people just don't get that. Maybe the people who get exasperated with "grandma and grandpa" should spend a year or two in a house where the only phone hangs on the kitchen wall, the only TV is black and white, and even the pocket calculator hasn't been invented yet. By the way, I am fluent in Windows, OS X, Linux and Android, even though the first computer I ever saw was an IBM mainframe--the ONLY computer on my college campus.

    • Dan Price
      May 29, 2015 at 9:35 pm

      I repeatedly said some elderly people were excellent with technology. Equally, a lot aren't.

    • DonGateley
      May 29, 2015 at 10:08 pm

      Marte, being in your 60's makes you just a kid relative to the group discussed here. You're barely even pre-geriatric. :-)

  12. Colonel Angus
    May 28, 2015 at 9:37 pm

    I think a Chromebook would be perfect for seniors. Granted, there are some older computer users who know their way around and were in on the ground floor of the PC revolution, but a great many of them use their laptop for nothing more technical than Facebook and web browsing. For those users, a Chromebook would be perfect, and much less expensive than a regular laptop. Heck, maybe I'll buy one myself when I hit 50 later this year!

    • Dan Price
      June 4, 2015 at 4:52 pm

      You're still young at 50 ;)

  13. Zack McCauley
    May 28, 2015 at 9:35 pm

    They are great for kids just starting out as well. 99% of what they will do is online (Flash games, youtube, basic editing, web browsing, etc) and it serves as a great starting computer. Getting my grandmother, my little brother, and myself (Macbook Pro standard use) one of these for the simple times. Mine will be for traveling mostly, but I may end up hooking it up to my TV for a nice media box as well. Plus I can control it via Chrome Remote Desktop, or provide service to all of the above via that as well.

    • Dan Price
      June 4, 2015 at 4:51 pm

      Great point Zac!

  14. Matt Strohbehn
    May 28, 2015 at 9:21 pm

    I got one of these for my mom... she took to it pretty quickly, for reasons like those above. Also, all of her pictures, etc are online now, so no backups are needed, and if this machine (ASUS Chromebox) goes up in smoke for some reason, I just have to get another one. Log in, and you're right back where you were. It was also relatively inexpensive, another plus.

    • Dan Price
      June 4, 2015 at 4:50 pm

      Glad she liked it Matt!

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