Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Best Gift Ever for a Senior Citizen - Presto!

This is going to sound like an infomercial. But it isn’t. It’s simply an observation about one of the best gifts my sibs and I ever got for our mother.  A Presto email machine.  

A Presto is a printer that can receive and print emails and pictures.  The owner cannot send emails. And that’s just fine for my mother.  A long time ago in her youth (her early 80s) she had a Mail Station.  But it befuddled her.  She could never figure out all the bells and whistles, which were basically the Send and Reply buttons.  Also, she was deeply afraid that access to email would cause her children and grandchildren to stop calling her. So when she and my Dad moved from their house into a senior living complex, she left the Mail Station behind.

About two years ago, my oldest brother came across an advertisement for the Presto email machine, and for lack of anything better to get Mom for her birthday, we agreed to chip in and buy her one.  We set it up in the guest bedroom.  My brother became the account administrator, which means he gets the notices when the machine is out of ink or paper, or we need to renew the yearly subscription.  He is also the gatekeeper: he approves and registers anyone who wants to be able to send Mom email or pictures.  That keeps out spam, advertising, and general riffraff.   

What I especially like about her Presto is that I can send her email from anywhere that I have access to my email, including my cell phone.  When I forget to send holiday cards, I can create one on my computer and send it in an instant.  The grandkids, many of whom I am sure don’t even know what the inside of a post office looks like, send email letters and pictures of themselves and their kids (Mom’s great grandkids). 

When I was in Greece this past summer, I wrote journal entries addressed to Mom, attached one of the photos I had taken that day, and sent off daily communications that she looked forward to reading.  My brother sends her his monthly columns that he writes for outdoor sports magazine.   One of her grandkids even sent the floor plans for the new house he and his wife are building.

And now, with the birth of her most recent great-grandchild, she looks forward to the daily baby pictures her granddaughter sends. A way to keep in touch with the newest member of the family who lives too far away to visit.

Obviously, with the Baby Boomer generation moving in to the senior ranks, having a personal computer or laptop with an email and even Facebook account is part of the norm.  But my Mom is a generation beyond that—she and my Dad are part of the “Greatest Generation” as Tom Brokaw so aptly put it.  They are the generation that is making centenarians part of the norm.  And  today’s technology is just a bit out of reach for many of those folks.  So this Presto email machine (maybe there are other brands just like it, but I don’t know) is a miracle machine for our extended family; it enables us to easily keep Mom/Grandma/Great-Grandma in the loop of our lives.  

And she doesn’t have to worry that we’ll stop calling.