My Mom is Eighty-nine, Not Plugged In, Yet Still Content. There’s No App For That.

My 89-year old mother sees computers and the Internet as things for everyone else to get tangled up in and she wants it to stay that way. She’s fine with using a pencil to do the daily newspaper’s crossword puzzle, rather going online to any of the crossword puzzle sites. Likewise, she has multiple cookbooks to choose from; she doesn’t need a computer to search for recipes. I think about how much time she doesn’t waste online, and I feel envious.

You could say my mom’s a Luddite, but that wouldn’t paint an accurate picture of her relationship with technology. She’s thankful for the modern things that make life more convenient, like the dishwasher and the air conditioner. She’s not entirely convinced that the Internet is one of those welcome conveniences. After all, she’s managed 89 years without relying on urls, dotcoms, gifs and Facebook.

The day my mom asked me about my watercolor paintings seemed like a perfect opportunity to show her my website at I grabbed my iPad and launched the site. She was amazed at what she saw—for about 20 seconds. And then she said, “I’ve had enough of the computer.”

Mom has conflicting opinions about the Internet. Sometimes, she’s impressed by what’s out there in cyberspace. At other times, she disdains it. She’ll ask me a question for which I don’t have an answer (that’s quite often), and when I return with the answer, she’s quite impressed. When I tell her that I found the answer online, she rolls her eyes and says scornfully, “Oh, the Internet.”

Mom moans that technology and computers have invaded every aspect of our lives. For example, in my mom’s opinion, online banking is Satan’s playground. It’s an abomination that no one should gaze upon lest it turn you to stone or a pillar of salt. I feel dreadfully sorry for her. One of the reasons she can no longer balance her checkbook has to do with her declining memory. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. She grew up with paper. With my Dad’s help, she learned how to balance her checkbook and that task became a regular, necessary part of her routine. I can remember watching her spend hours looking for that one penny that had gone missing under a string of penciled numbers. She’d persevere and ultimately achieve her goal. And that felt good to her. It was as meaningful and satisfying as baking a delicious cake, fully risen, from scratch. It showed that she had control over her life, not some computer.

My Dad, later on in life, tried to convince her to stop balancing her checkbook and to simply rely on the bank statement. But, she’s still struggling to let her old routine go. My brothers and sister have tried to convince her she no longer has to spend the time doing that task. It’s like asking her to stop eating her beloved Honey Bunches of Oats. Or to stop breathing, even.

It doesn’t help that bank statements are so very onerous to figure out. So damn many words and numbers, columns and rows and pages!

It unnerves my mom to not be able to look at her checkbook and see what her current balance is. Of course, I get that. When I tell her we can go online immediately and look at her statement and her balance, she looks up at me wild-eyed. You’d think I’d just asked her to take a trip to the moon with me. Honestly, “online” must feel as remote as the moon to her. I hope she never asks me to explain the “Cloud.”

One time I thought I could convince her to use the computer to practice bridge. I showed her my app for it. That went over like a lead balloon.

Yes, my mom has been left a bit behind as technology marches on. But through all my experiences with computers, smartphones, digital appliances, social media, and this blog, I’m not always certain that’s a bad thing for her or others like her. Yes, technology can be a convenience at the same time it’s a distraction at the same time inviting so much unpleasantness into one’s life.

Think about how many times technologies frustrate us and, through its use and intrusion, even hurt us. My mom might not fully comprehend what she’s missing out on, but she’s quite content and happy. Is she really missing out on anything? Most days, I’m not so sure.

illustration of granny afraid of laptop
“Get Thee Behind Me, Satan!”

59 thoughts on “My Mom is Eighty-nine, Not Plugged In, Yet Still Content. There’s No App For That.

  1. I have accepted that my dad (at the age of 92) is unable to comprehend, much less remember how to deal with the computer and he too, had a finite amount of attention span for the pictures that appear on it. But I was surprised when he didn’t want to transition from the VCR to the DVR. I thought that he would jump at the chance to pause the golf match until he had dinner, then continue watching it after he finished. Oh well.

    1. My Dad suffered mightily with modern TV and the remote control. I should have had far more patience with him and understood how utterly changed that technology had become since his youth. I often curse technology that doesn’t take the older generations into consideration. It too often seems that designers just don’t care.

      1. Designers are in their 20’s and just don’t understand (and yes, probably don’t care about) the limitations of the elderly. Dad knows how to turn the TV on, and adjust the sound and he is happy with those two things. I don’t try to make things “better” anymore.

  2. Your mom is doing what works for her — what she’s familiar with from the time when her generation dominated. It’s obvious that you respect and understand where she’s coming from — so clearly she raised you well. And let’s face it, if you’re still kicking at 89 and have hung onto as many marbles as the SDS matriarch, the Internet that we know now will likely seem very quaint by then. I anticipate a time when my grasp on technology will loosen, and like your mom, I’ll cease to care. Two years ago, a millennial friend ripped me a new one for not having that idiocy, “Gangnam Style”, on my radar. She needs to learn to practice patience around her elders; something you have mastered.

    1. I always appreciate your comments, V! It’s mind-boggling to think that someday far in the future, we’ll remember when the Internet and computers were a lot simpler. I can hear myself saying, “the good old days…” Don’t ever sweat not keeping up with current pop culture. At work one day, one 30-something woman asked me who Buddy Holly was. I couldn’t say a word – I had to walk away.

  3. I love my iPad, adore taking pictures with my iPhone, yet still prefer to read newsprint, paper magazines and real books when they are available. It’s what I grew up with and what still comforts me. So I relate with your mom that way, SDS!

    1. It’s what I grew up with, too. I’ve yet to read a book online. I just can’t do it. It’s actually unpleasant for me. I’ll always want to hold a real book and a real magazine. Hope they never leave us!

      1. I am slowly unplugging my life. Not that I was all that plugged in anyways. I prefer books and magazines…..not only do they enrich your life in so many special and unique ways…… they can be damn handy trying to light a campfire on a very cold night.

  4. I love my computer and spend way too much time on it. Also like my smart phone and tablet. But I would miss the newspaper if I didn’t have it every morning and though I do read books on my tablet I much prefer “real” books. As for those computer crossword puzzles…I can’t stand them but I love my paper and pencil ones.

    1. My mom and I work the paper’s crossword puzzles together, sitting side by side at the breakfast table. I wouldn’t give that up for nothing. Hovering over a computer screen just wouldn’t be the same thing. Thanks for stopping by, Patricia!

  5. “Mom has conflicting opinions about the Internet. Sometimes, she’s impressed by what’s out there in cyberspace. At other times, she disdains it. “

    It can be overwhelming and I think her perspective is one we should all consider since so much that was intended to make life better can also turn out to be a source of misery for many.

  6. Often, I’d like to go back in time to where you couldn’t just Google” to figure out stuff. While we have become great at finding info, are we any better at using it? Do we remember nearly As much as if we had to look it up in, gasp, a book? I say no. We have distilled information down into talking points. And that is NOT a good thing. Except for the checking account part. I’m good with that!

    Happy, Happy birthday to your mom.

    1. I have to say that Google has been a fantastic research tool for me. And the Internet has put a ton of great info at my fingertips. I’ve truly learned a lot because of the web, but I suspect that if the library were the only thing available, I’d be using it much more. My mom’s only admiration for the web comes when I look up a crossword puzzle word for her.

      1. Actually I love it too — and I couldn’t do my job without it. But I think that it is transient information as opposed to something you actually learn. I know that whatever I’ve found on google I can find on google again so I pay less attention.

  7. I got my 82 (+/-) year old dad an iPad last year. He plays slots on it. He can’t access emails, take pictures or do Facetime…he just plays slot machines on the thing……long. All. Day. Wherever he goes he sounds like Vegas. Your mom deserves a big hug and a kiss.

      1. This is a man who wants to impart HIS TECHNIQUE for teaching non-native English speakers English in a fast and efficient way…so, he starts up a blog spreading his wisdom. A blog IN ENGLISH, because he doesn’t know how to type in Chinese. No, my dad doesn’t know much about the internet, and thankfully, the internet doesn’t know him all that well, too. I do love stories about your mom, though. Please keep them coming.

  8. Good written. Made me think of my little mother who sadly left us December 21, 2011, aged 86.

    She was not too familiar with all this stuff with the new technology but sometimes my kids tried to teach her. A funny incident was when my one son was sick and she thought it was his computer that made him sick. She had appreciably probably read about all the computer virus that affected so many computers. She was very worried about my son’s health. Miss my mom. Love You Mom.

    1. Oh, I feel for you, I do. Missing our parents is a constant pain. I’m trying to collect up all the good memories of my mom so that I can hold onto them forever. I love your story about the computer virus! Adorable.

  9. My mother passed in 1986. She struggled with the new “portable” phones that weren’t tethered to the wall. The first ones had a lot of buttons to use and she had a hard time with that. She also didn’t like drive-throughs because you had to know what you want or have your paperwork ready. She didn’t have a microwave either. She was a smart lady. I often wonder if she would have embraced technology even if any only as a means to keep in touch with family.

  10. I feel gifted by the internet because I can learn so many things that otherwise would be too expensive or hard. But I can also understand fully why someone who is having enough difficulty negotiating the remote would rather not invest time trying to figure out surfing. I find that certain things will forever remain unknown to me because I just don’t have the determination to figure it all out (like higher math for instance). So as long as your mom is happy with the way things are, I say, let it be. As you are. :)

  11. Such memories you brought back! When Mom still was alive, my new interest in blogging was beyond her. Eventually, she decided she’d like to read one of my blog entries online. I found the page, sat her down, explained the mouse and went back to making dinner. It wasn’t long before she said, “That’s very nice, dear, but isn’t it a little short? You need an ending paragraph.”

    Exactly. She couldn’t figure out the mouse. She never figured it out,and eventually she said, “What would be really nice is if you printed these out for me, so I could read them instead of just looking at them.” And so it was.

    My aunt, now age 87, has three kids who tried their best to bring her into the modern age. She was online for about two years, and then one day she decided she’d had enough. There would be no more chain emails, internet jokes, or weird letters from rich Nigerians who wanted into her bank account. When one of my cousins stopped by, there was only a potted plant where the computer had been. She’d managed to box it up and it was waiting in the garage for whichever child got to it first.

    Now, I write letters to her, and call her on the phone. Even I enjoy that more than the emails.

  12. Oh, you have just described my own mom! Well, she hasn’t even SEEN a computer screen before up close. Seriously. I don’t think she has ever looked at anything on the internet in her entire life. She doesn’t even know what it is!

    And she balances her checkbook by hand too. She loves it–she has her little desk all set up with her old calculator and pens. Even though she’s almost 80, she can still crunch numbers. I swear it keeps her brain sharp.

    Neither of our moms are missing a damned thing. Can’t say the same for the rest of us.

    By the way, I love love love that image you made of your mom!

    1. Yep – I really don’t think my mom’s life is made worse by not being logged in and connected. Our physical connections are good enough for her. And, about the image – I was surprised myself after finishing it and seeing how much it actually resembles my mom!

  13. All of us problem can related to someone in our life that’s like your mom. For us, it’s my father-in-law. He’s not as cautious and down as the internet as your mom, but he keeps wondering, “Who puts that information out there?”

    I was also thinking this about your mom … I wonder what “advancement” occurred in her youth that her parents resisted or reacted in a similar manner.

      1. Maybe there was something when she got older that she related to, but not her mother.

        I think of this in a similar light as music with the older generation sharing the younger generation is bound for hell with their music … that is, forgetting that the same was said for them. After all, many criticized big band music. .. then Elvis and the new wave of early rock and roll …. let alone the classic rockers that followed … and then today’s rap.

  14. LOVE that piece at the end!!!!!! Too funny. Your mom sounds a bit like mine.

    There is, indeed, no app for that. Whoever manages to create the happiness app will make a fortune–and probably not be as happy in the long run.

    Hugs from Ecuador,

  15. With great trepidation I am preparing to hand over my old iPad to my mom (75 years old). Every piece of technology she has had access to has died a much too early death. Having a house phone and cell phone also confuses her. Why the two are not the same makes no sense to her….we talk about it every month when it is time to pay the bills!

  16. No one can incorporate all technology into their life, so we all have to pick and choose. Your Mom is just picking and choosing less than most. When I see all of these people who have become slaves to their phones and their text-messaging friends, I’d much rather be on her end of the spectrum.

    I love that painting at the end of the post. Has she seen it?

  17. I really loved this post! I’m, more or less, an Internet addict, which has started having serious repurcussions on my life! *sigh* So there are many moments when I would like to be as uninterested in the world of technology as your mom is! :-D
    I really love your style of writing too!

    1. Thank you, thank you! I was once very much more connected than I am now. In spite of the nagging I get from the FB admins, I don’t feel compared to share all that much on FB anymore. I dumped my Twitter and Pinterest account. I feel much lighter now.

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