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 as being too ‘bare’, unable to perform tasks that most frequent computer users take for granted. And while it might be possible to multitask like a pro on your Chromebook, there 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…
The Internet is Front and Centre
To say that today’s Chromebooks are merely glorified web browsers 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.
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.
If you think about it, you can watch movies on a Chromebook, edit photos on a Chromebook, and make video calls on a Chromebook. 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 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.
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 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.
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.
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, and the Chrome Web Store makes it impossible to accidentally installed bundled junk. Although Windows has plenty of anti-virus options, 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 all your data.
It’s one less thing for an elderly end-user to worry about.
If you ask my mother to open the Windows Control Panel 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 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? You might also want to share this Chromebook keyboard shortcut cheat sheet with them.
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?
Image Credits: senior couple using laptop via Shutterstock