Dealing With An Elderly Parent Who Is Computer Illiterate


Dealing with an elderly parent who is computer illiterate

Dealing with an elderly parent is difficult. But when it comes to dealing with an elderly parent who is computer illiterate and insists he/she knows how a computer operates, well then, it’s more difficult!

My dad insisted on getting an iPhone. I tried to talk him out of it but he, as he ages, is getting more and more stubborn. So, I went along with him and let him buy an IPhone. I set it up for him and showed him multiple times how to use it and yet, he still doesn’t know how it works or how to access things.

The other day, he calls me up. “WE have a problem,” he said. (I don’t know why it’s always we, but it is… because his problems always end up to be my problems.) “I was updating the phone and it asked me for a thumb print. I put my thumb on the phone, it updated and now I can’t turn it on!”

“Did you put your thumb on the phone?” I asked.

“Yes, I did. It doesn’t work and I can’t make a call,” he said.

Since I don’t live near him, I told him to go to the nearest Verizon store and ask them to remove the thumb print and the passcode from his phone.

Next, he wanted me to buy him a laptop computer. “Dad, why do you need a laptop?” I asked.

“I need one when I go on trips and I can bring with me,” he said.

At 84, where is he going? And, besides, what is he going to do with it? He doesn’t know how to type. He doesn’t know how to access his email. He doesn’t even go on Facebook.

I suggested that since he already had an iPad and that he uses an iPhone, we should upgrade his iPad and get him one with a keyboard. These days the iPad is as powerful as a laptop. Many people are using them as a computer, because that what they are.

He reluctantly agreed. We went to the Apple store in Boca, bought him a new powerful iPad and I sat and taught him how to use it. As I was teaching him, I could tell he wasn’t focusing in on what I was saying. So, I wrote everything down. I went over it with him at least a dozen times — this is how you access your mail. This is how you send out an email. This is how you do…

Anyway, the other day he calls me. “Hil, don’t be upset but I hate the iPad. I want a laptop.”

“Why? What’s wrong?” I asked.

“It doesn’t have Google on it and it can’t hold my photos,” he said…

I shook my head and said, “Dad, go buy yourself a laptop.” (But, you know who will end up getting one for him…)


  1. Ethan

    I try to ask for use cases for the “I need tech” questions. That sometimes helps. But is often as complicated as explaining how to use the device.

    1. Hilary JM Topper, MPA

      Agree! I’m a softy. I was with my kids and I am with my dad…..

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