Your Aging Parents and Technology: Taking Away Their Electronic Devices

Being a caretaker or decision maker for your elderly parents means having to make difficult choices, all in the name of safety—your parents,’ and those around them. Taking away their car keys is one such example; but have you ever thought about the fact that you may need to take away Mom or Dad’s Smartphone or tablet?

Smart devices can bring the entire world right into our homes, keeping us connected and entertained. The ability to download free library books, take an online class, watch movies, and chat fact to face (virtually) with friends and family is especially rewarding for a person who is aging and whose mobility is waning.

And yet, with the sensitive information we store on our digital devices today—medical records, bank account and routing numbers, home security settings, etc.—an iPad in the wrong hands can be disastrous to any family. Thieves abound globally, targeting senior citizens specifically for scamming.
How at risk is your mom or dad?

That depends on their online habits, and especially on their cognitive health.
Sites such as Facebook allow a peek into our age brackets, interests, and even the names of our family members—leaving certain population segments more at risk for scams than others. Shopping sites offer us the ability to purchase practically anything we can imagine … a real problem for someone who may be becoming more and more forgetful.

If your parent has been an ardent iPhone user, but of late is having trouble putting the device to use, consider how Mom or Dad has been managing in other areas of their daily routine. It’s possible that the real issue is a cognitive decline—a sad but not uncommon result of aging. At minimum, a physical workup is in order.

And what about continued use of at-home devices, PCs, phones, and the like?
Aging is hard enough. The last thing we want to do is to cut off your parent(s)’ ability to easily socialize with friends and family, access photos and entertainment, and generally feel independent. Instead, make use of the devices’ parental controls, limiting Mom or Dad’s ability to visit certain websites, access the internet during certain hours, etc. There’s no need to let them know. In order to manage spending, remove access to third-party payment services such as PayPal by deleting any connected credit cards and banking information. Contact an IT specialist for further advice.

For the most part, as an elderly person’s judgment and cognitive capacity continue to slow, interest in emails and Facebook groups will diminish; but in the meantime, Mom and Dad have more than earned their screen time.
If your family, or one close to you, is dealing with the inevitable issues associated with caring for aging parents, please reach out. Together we can find a solution that works for everyone involved.


All the best,

Rabbi Scott Saulson, Ph.D.

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