We’ve all been there. The phone rings, you answer it, and the next 45 minutes of your life is spent trying to talk your grandparents through how to set up a Zoom account on their PC or install WhatsApp on their mobile device.
By the time you’re done with the experience, you either failed to resolve the issue, or you successfully fixed the problem and now your elderly relatives see you as a CIA operative computer hacker genius they can come to with all their tech troubles.
Neither outcome is ideal, really. Even for the most patient of us, helping our older family members with tech support can be a frustrating experience. And yet, the reality is that technology is moving so fast these days, it’s unrealistic to expect older generations to stay on top of the latest emerging technologies as/when they come to market.
So how can you offer tech support to your older relatives without losing your mind every single time? Here are a few handy tips to make life easier for both parties. Please note, the first three tips are for getting your elderly loved ones off to a good start with a new device from the get-go. The final four can be helpful for any occasion where someone needs your help with their electronics.
1. Remove bloatware
Bloatware is all those extra apps and unnecessary software that are pre-installed on your new device before you even switch it on for the first time. This might include random games, word processing software, fitness tracker apps and other “bloatware” that isn’t always useful or desired.
You know your grandparents better than we do, so you’ll probably have a good idea of what apps or pre-installed software is going to be of absolutely zero use to them. Go through the device’s library and delete anything unnecessary. This will minimise notifications, clear up storage space and keep the device running efficiently.
2. Install and set up “TeamViewer” or a similar remote access solution
TeamViewer is a program that allows you to remotely access a device and control it as if it’s your own. Obviously you want to consult with your grandparents before you install this on their phone, tablet or computer, but it can be extremely useful for avoiding long conversations and tedious explanations!
With this software, if your older relatives are faced with a tech issue and they’re comfortable with you jumping in, you can simply log into their device remotely and solve the problem yourself. You’re welcome for that one!
3. Optimise their device for them, not you
This one might seem obvious but it’s easy to forget we’re setting up a device for someone else other than ourselves. If you are configuring a PC, tablet or smartphone for an older relative, remember to strip it down and avoid downloading a vast array of apps they don’t need or want. Ask them what they want to use the device for, and optimise it accordingly.
4. Teach them to break the “panic button pressing” habit
Not everyone is guilty of this, but it’s a common reaction for many of us to say, “What the heck is going on?!” and start randomly plugging away at every possible button on the screen until we get what we want. Needless to say, this rarely produces the desired result!
If your elderly relatives call you with tech-related woes, ask them to avoid pressing anything on the device, slowly describe to you everything they see on the screen, and what happened prior to them arriving at this screen. This helps you get a clear overview of what’s going on and might help you resolve the issue a little quicker.
5. Consider writing a short instructional guide for the recurring issues
This one is more for your sanity than theirs! And while it takes a little bit of time and effort, you may find that it pays dividends in the future when you avoid having the same conversation again and again over the same recurring issue.
If there are a handful of scenarios that seem to keep occurring (like accidentally exiting out of an app and not being able to find it again, or saving images in the wrong folder and not being able to reverse this, for example), write down a step-by-step guide for how to fix these issues. Try to make it as clear and succinct as possible to avoid confusion.
6. Document usernames and passwords
Okay, so there’s a bit of a privacy issue here and your relatives might not be comfortable having documented evidence of sensitive information in the house. But at the end of the day, having a piece of paper tucked away somewhere that contains all their usernames and passwords for every app or portal can do wonders for your sanity (and theirs) down the line.
No one likes the process of trying to recover lost login details, and this piece of paper can provide peace of mind that there’s a contingency plan!
7. Try to nip things in the bud
What do we mean by this? We’re talking about that persistent “Beat your high score!” notification from Solitaire, or “Take our quiz for extra rewards points” notification from their banking app. While some notifications are important, others are really not. It might be worth going through the notification settings and switching off notifications for certain apps.
As for any other minor but annoying issues that both you and your older relatives have put off dealing with, it might be best to just take care of it once and for all. If their tablet keeps pestering them for a software update, just get it done so that the notifications stop.
8. Back up regularly
And finally, if you’re striving for the title of “favourite grandchild”, make a note for yourself to schedule regular data backups for your older relatives. Or better yet, teach them how to do it themselves. Either way, if they ever happen to accidentally lose all their data for whatever reason, the panic will be short-lived as you tell them there’s a copy of all their files, documents, photos, videos and so on.
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