Mom and dad grew up during the depression. The hard times affected dad’s family more than mom’s as his father often didn’t have work during that time. His mother died when he was a teen and dad dropped out of school soon afterwards. He got his GED as an adult. Still, dad was a quick learner and taught himself to be a mechanic. He worked at a blue-collar job all his life and retired with a pension.
Dad always kept himself busy. He was never content to just sit around and talk even when we had family visiting. Dad would often just get up and go downstairs to work in his shop while the uncles all snoozed after a meal.
Then about 25 years ago he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and had to spend some time in the hospital and some enforced rest after that. I didn’t know how he would entertain himself sitting still for weeks at a time. I decided to send him my first computer as by that time I had replaced it with one more compatible with my work computer.
Immediately dad taught himself how to use that computer. After his recovery he went to flea markets and garage sales and bought other used computers and parts. Soon he learned how to replace memory cards, reformat hard drives and replace parts. He was on his way to a new retirement hobby that kept him busy for many years to come. The only bad part was that he became a collector of computer parts and programs that soon filled up about 1/3 the garage at home, and his closet in his winter mobile home.
Dad learned to use the Internet and email and was able to correspond with friends from his winter retirement community when they were all at their permanent summer homes. He also emailed family and old friends while mom and dad were at their winter mobile park community. Dad also took pictures and printed them on his printer. Mom was often annoyed at how he would spend hours working on that computer but it kept his mind active and he was never bored. Often, even after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I would see him spend hours at a time just playing solitaire on his computer.
One problem was that mom didn’t understand computers at all. She sure didn’t see why they should spend any money on dad’s computer hobby. As a result, he had used printers, bur no printer cartridges because mom didn’t want him to spend money to buy them. He reused the paper on both sides to make it last longer. He had a dial-up connection because he obtained that from a free provider though he had to put up with the slow speed and the many advertisements.
When dad moved to his assisted living facility near me, I had his computer set up with cable internet at the same time his television and telephone were connected to the cable provider. I worked with a tech geek to have dad’s computer configured similar to the way it was when he used the dial-up connection before in his mobile home. However, it was still confusing to dad I think. I am not sure if it was the new method of access or just his Alzheimer’s disease, but he never turned on the computer at all once it was set up for him.
I paid for his internet access for more than half a year. I finally had it disconnected when he was admitted to the hospital and from there to the nursing home. By the time he returned to his room at the assisted living facility I had removed the computer and cleared off his desk. He said he never used it anyway so it didn’t matter.
Still I believe it kept his mind active for 25 years and I think that was one reason his Alzheimer’s disease didn’t advance very quickly. Now he doesn’t read, he doesn’t watch television and he doesn’t use his computer.
But, when I was away on my southern vacation, one of his companions brought her iPad for dad to see and try Face Time. He was very interested in her iPad and asked many questions about it. She showed him how he could do Face Time and she showed him the other features including the games. He honed right into the solitaire game. She started it up and began to play and he told her what moves to make with the cards. Soon he was doing it himself on her iPad. He might not remember how to get the computer up and running, but he still remembers how to play the game.
I got an iPad while I was away so I could do Face Time with dad. We only got that to work twice and dad wasn’t that interested in it. He was, however, interested in playing solitaire whenever the iPad was there. I decided to find a solitaire app to download onto my iPad so that when I visit dad he could use my iPad to play also.
I have been using computers over 25 years now and this is the first time I have started playing a computer game. I always thought it was a waste of time to play games on the computer, and now when I have a few minutes to wait for a new recipe to be ready, or to wait for a community activity to start, I find myself opening that game and starting to play. I want to know what I am doing with it before I bring the iPad over to show dad. I hope I can keep him as engaged in solitaire as his companion said he was. My goal is to keep his mind active as much as possible.
I called dad yesterday and he asked again where I am and when I will be home. I told him I will see him soon. I look forward to seeing how he is and hope he can continue to play computer games and live out his years in assisted living — even with Alzheimer’s.