What to get for a 73 year old...

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by kumquat, Oct 25, 2013.

  1. kumquat macrumors regular


    Sep 4, 2011
    My mom needs a new computer. She's been plugging along with an old white 13 inch Santa Rosa 2006 MacBook since it was released and I upgraded the RAM for her and updated it to Snow Leopard, but it's just really slow and past its prime at this point with nearly constant beachballs of death. Part if the reason the machine is so slow is that she insists on saving all of her documents to the desktop, including giant videos which come as email attachments and, not quite understanding the concept of URLS, many, many web archive files. I got her two 1TB external hard drives, one for storage, one for backup but she just can't get in the hang of using them.

    She's been using Macs since the early/mid 80s when they introduced them at her work and gave employees ones to take home.

    Before this laptop, her main machine was one of those white and blue iMacs and she never takes the laptop off her desk unless she's actually traveling out of town which has become more and more rare. She, also, doesn't seem to quite get that she can actually carry her mobile phone with her while making calls. She came with me to the Apple Store recently when I had to have my iPhone replaced and remarked that she found the screens on the 11 inch Airs too small but liked the keyboards ok; the screen size and need to be able to touch type also takes an iPad out of the running.

    Her primary usage is lots and lots and lots and lots of email, web browsing, a fair amount of writing in Word and she's recently gotten the hang of how to hook her MacBook up to the tv so she and her boyfriend can watch Netflix. The biggest stumbling block with the latter was neither of them being able to remember how to use the Input button on the remote. She listens to a little internet radio but doesn't use iTunes or do anything with photos or video beyond the aforementioned Netflix streaming and random YouTube videos.

    Anyway, do you think I should get her another MacBook despite the lack of any real need for portability or would one of the lower end iMacs suffice? Are the iMacs still having problems with the screens overheating? From the MacBook Air forum here it sounds like Mavericks hasn't resolved the wifi issues many of those are experiencing. I'd want to max out the RAM on either for her. The issue with her saving absolutely everything to the desktop makes me think maybe I should be focusing more on internal storage size than a speedy SSD but slowness is the major problem with her current machine.

    The only other thing really is that she's in the routine of sitting at her desk for hours while sorting through her million daily emails from lists she insists are not just spam while watching the TV which faces her desk. There's a sofa in between the two which her boyfriend sits on. With the MacBook she can of course see the TV screen just fine but a head level iMac might make that kind of problematic.

    So, what would you get for her?
  2. acore macrumors member


    Sep 18, 2013
    15-inch, MacBook Pro with Retina display
    processor: 2.6GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 3.8GHz
    memory: 16GB 1600MHz DDR3L SDRAM
    hard drive: 1TB PCIe-based Flash Storage
  3. gnasher729, Oct 25, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2013

    gnasher729 macrumors P6


    Nov 25, 2005
    kumquat will gladly take donations to buy this for his mum…

    Kumquat: Depends on your money and how confident you feel about opening a MBP. Check how much storage she uses.

    If she doesn't use the optical drive, and you are confident doing that kind of thing, get the non-retina MBP, replace the optical drive with a small SSD and build your own Fusion drive. That's all in one place, no external drive anymore, very very fast, and either 640GB or 768GB. Then set up some wireless backup. Refurbished Time Capsule will do very nicely.

    If she's OK with being stuck to the desk, 21.5" iMac.
    If the eyesight is bad: 27" iMac, and ask here for instructions how to set it to "HiDPI mode". That basically changes the iMac to a 27" 1280 x 800 retina display with really large characters.

    Noticed you mentioned TV - 27" iMac could be used as a TV as well. A bit small, maybe.
  4. kumquat thread starter macrumors regular


    Sep 4, 2011
    Ha ha, yes, definitely open to donations! I was hoping to stay between about $1500-1800 but that may be overly optimistic. More importantly, I just want to get her something that will hopefully last her as long as the MacBook has and that will frustrate her less with slow speed.

    I assume if I moved slowly enough step by step I could manage to replace an optical drive with a hard drive, but I've never done so before and would hate to destroy a new machine while trying to learn how to do this. Are there the same potential hazards with breaking the wifi and bluetooth antennas with the MBPs as there are with the Minis?

    The eye sight thing is somewhat curious to me. She had cataract surgery a few years ago and, even with her reading glasses, it's seemed to me that her vision has been worse since the operation. She does get regular eye check ups but apparently has some kind of issue with pressure in her eyes. Clearly, she's able to see well enough to type on the 13 incher she has now, she's written two novels on in since retiring, but I'd have to assume a larger screen would be easier for her. The TV is 52 inches and there's no chance her boyfriend would be willing to replace it with a 27 inch monitor. They sit about 2 feet from the thing so that might be another reason her eyesight isn't doing too great.

    She gets really flustered when her routines are disrupted so it would be easier on her, I think, to replace one laptop with another but I feel like an iMac makes much more sense given that she doesn't even move her MacBook into other rooms in her house or even onto her lap when sitting on the sofa. It just lives on the desk. Except for those maybe 4 weekends a year that they go out of town to visit friends or her boyfriend's son.
  5. 2010mini macrumors 68040

    Jun 19, 2013
    your 73 year old mom knows how to use a computer.... she's way ahead of the game there. I am still trying to tech my 69 years old mother how to text.

    i say get her a imac and an Apple TV. that way she gets easier access to Netflix.
  6. Corrosive vinyl macrumors 6502

    Corrosive vinyl

    Sep 22, 2006
    For eye issues, there is accessibility options in system preferences that are well laid out in Mavericks. Also, when reading things online I love to use the reader in Safari. it makes reading articles soooo much easier, and I am young and have good eyesight!

    I would ask her if she wants still wants portability and if the MB she has now will work for that purpose. Take her to the apple store and physically look at displays. Take a look at the 13 inch MBP then go up to the 15 inch and ask what is easier on her eyes. Then show her the iMac with that huge screen (comparably).

    Get her to go in and choose what she wants. She will get attached to the idea of using whatever she chose and want it all the more.
  7. wmitch macrumors regular


    Mar 7, 2012
    Iowa, USA
    I would suggest the non Retina Macbook Pro or the iMac. Maybe give her a choice?

    my initial thought was a 13" non retina but with eyesight being an issue maybe get the 15" Hi res display? Currently $1600 from the Refurb store and throw in extra Ram and a 1TB hard drive. should put you right at $1800. (not to mention you wouldn't have to do it all right away)

    If she wants a desktop you could get a 27" iMac for the same money $1600 that already had a 1tb hard drive and 8gb of ram.

    No matter what you get it will be an unbelievable upgrade. so she will be very happy.
  8. MacDarcy macrumors 65816

    Jul 21, 2011
    Ipad! ipad! Ipad! Get your mom an ipad! We got our 74yr old Mom an ipad, and she LOVES it. She can surf the web, send us emails, FaceTime, Skype, facebook. She orders things from Amazon. Its so easy to use. She can bring it from room to room.

    What else does a 74 year old woman need? Ipad is the way to go.:)

    Actually...after reading the OP full post, if his mom really has an issue with her eyes...I'd go with the 21.5" or 27" base imac. Done & done.
  9. Cheffy Dave macrumors 68030

    Cheffy Dave

    Feb 5, 2007
    Sunny Florida, on the Gulf Coast in Homosassa Fl
    My 2007 BMB was doing the same thing, constant beachballs, s-l-o-w, in spite of the thoughts here (that its not needed), I purchased and ran iDefrag, it ran for a day and a half,it is as snappy as new, NO BB!!:cool:
  10. themumu macrumors 6502a


    Feb 13, 2011
    I second the suggestion for a refurbished 15" MBP. From what you are describing, storage is important for her, but doesn't have to be very fast. With a cMBP you can get more storage a lot cheaper, so unless you have nowhere else to spend your money, paying for 1TB SSD is quite an overkill. Plus they are so much cheaper overall now that Apple is discontinuing them.
  11. Blue Hour macrumors newbie

    Oct 24, 2013
    I'd suggest the 15-inch: 2.0GHz with retina display; you may want to upgrade the hard drive to something larger if she can't or won't use the external storage.

    If she still has problems seeing the screen the you could either buy her an iMac which is likely the cheapest option but less portable. Or buy her a monitor and use the MBPr in "Clamshell" mode. This would provide her with a Qwerty keyboard, a larger screen and she would still have the option of taking the MBPr with her when she travels.

    If you decide to go the "Clamshell" route then I'd suggest buying a Twelve South BookArc. I'm considering one of these myself:


    I think it's great your Mother can still use a computer. You should ask her what she would prefer as it's going to be her that's using it. I wish you the best of luck and I hope she enjoys whatever you decide upon.


    I forgot to mention you would need a mouse/trackpad and keyboard if using a MBPr in "Clamshell"
  12. an-other macrumors regular

    Aug 12, 2011

    My mum is pretty savvy. She rocks a (pre-wedge) Air for work and iMac at home. The iMac is the preferred machine, but she's not using it watching tv.

    I was surprised she likes the 21.5" iMac over the 27". This is a bit foreign to my bigger is better screen mantra. It turns out her jigsaw puzzle website allows for quicker solutions on a smaller screen.

    I mention this as a suggestion to try to really understand her needs. I missed that one, and hearing the I wish this were a smaller screen grates on me like nails on a chalkboard.

    Good luck!
  13. RUGERMAN macrumors regular

    Jun 12, 2010

    She's 73 not 103. I'm 73 and am the Tech support guy for my whole family and half the neighborhood. Good grief,when do you think everyone falls apart. LOL
  14. wmitch macrumors regular


    Mar 7, 2012
    Iowa, USA
    This made me laugh! you sir are a statistical anomaly though! Kudos!

    My mom is 50 and i'm scared for when she updates her iPad to IOS 7 she won't be able to handle the change. all My grandparents are in their 70s and none of them do anything on computers except basic email and downloading viruses. :)
  15. kumquat, Oct 27, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2013

    kumquat thread starter macrumors regular


    Sep 4, 2011
    I really appreciate all the suggestions.

    My mother, a woman who has insisted she wants nothing but socks and basic writing pens from the drugstore for every birthday, Mother's Day and Christmas I can remember throughout my entire life, would never knowingly allow me to purchase something that she considers as extravagant as a computer for her. I don't think she'd insist on returning it after I got it as she's kept and uses other nice gifts I've surprised her with. But any time I happen to run across something that I think she might like or even need or we're out together and I point something out to her she launches into her not wanting anything and not wanting me to spend money on her spiel. And I only give her gifts on holidays so I don't think I'm violating any boundaries there. She has a good deal of credit card debt from years of rather frivolous catalogue purchases for herself (clothes, clothes and more clothes) and spends a lot going out every weekend with friends (I know no one else who sees a minimum of 52 movies a year) so the ascetic mantra seems to be more aspirational than reality based to me. I'm fairly sure that this debt (which she refuses to discuss, create a budget to deal with or see a financial planner about) is the logical reason she hasn't gotten herself a new computer. She'd be insulted if I offered to try to help her out with the debt, it'd be like rubbing her nose in her own flaws to her, and, frankly, with her refusal to budget, if I threw in the amount of the computer towards paying any of that off it would just be swallowed by the endlessly accumulating interest, accomplishing pretty much nothing. However, I think that, after the surprise wore off, she'd be very happy to have a fully functional computer again, one on which she can get her writing done without the nearly perpetual beachballs. So, all of that is a long way of getting to the point that I don't think I can really ask her what she'd prefer or take her to the store to give anything a test run. This is why I've come to you all for advice. And if you have any suggestions about how I could goad her into dealing with her debt, I'm all ears on that, too. I had no clue until this past year what a hole she'd dug herself into.
  16. crzdcolombian macrumors 6502a


    Nov 16, 2010
    iMac or macbook air 13. Both base models.

    They probably don't even need that. A $300 buck iPad mini or a refurbished iPad 4 would be more than enough. My grand father has a iPad mini and loves it. He doesn't email. He just sends small messages on Facebook and uses it for face time and to read the news.

    They don't use it like tech crazy teenagers. Find out what they actually need. If they have a decent display then a $600 buck mini wouldn't be a bad option.
  17. boomdog, Oct 27, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2013

    boomdog macrumors regular


    Oct 3, 2013
    The most Easterly point of the UK
    I think you should get her an iMac 21" and an Apple TV. Cost should be similar to a MBP and she could stream everything straight to her tv without needing to plug the thing in to the TV. A laminated step by step guide with screenshots should help her and her boyfriend remember how to set the TV side of things up.

    As for the debt, my older brother who is now 30 (going on 12) got in to all manner of debt and everytime a myself or a family member tried to convince him to tackle the debt head on he'd simply swear a whole lot and storm out to rack up more debt. I ended up helping him by contacting the companies he had debt with and offering to pay some of it down. I only one company would actually tell me how much he owed but all would accept a payment from me.

    Worth a shot if you know who she's in debt to
  18. drsox macrumors 65816


    Apr 29, 2011
    Does she have any health issues ? For a person of 73, I would guess there are aspects of eyesight and wrist/joint actions that might be relevant. If she does, then a laptop is IMO better. Maybe even the need for the right kind of chair.

    1. No mouse - Apple trackpad is a godsend
    2. Screen/Keyboard at glasses distance. If she wears bifocals, then the laptop is at reading height. iMac are a pain for bifocals (need another set of glasses)
    3. Portability. Easy to use it anywhere - esp if it's a MBA

    Ask her if there are aspects (maybe you aren't aware of them all)
  19. ekiro macrumors regular

    Oct 25, 2013
  20. NewbieCanada macrumors 68030

    Oct 9, 2007
    Amen! Dick Van Dyke is 87 and he's been creating computer animation for decades now.

    My parents were never any good at tech-y stuff when they were younger and they aren't now. Most young people aren't good at it either. I've seen plenty of people in their 20s, 30s and 40s who can't save anywhere but on their desktop!
  21. gnasher729, Oct 27, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2013

    gnasher729 macrumors P6


    Nov 25, 2005
    She's 73. About as old as Mick Jagger. Younger than Donald Knuth, Brian Kernighan, or Ken Thompson. Or John Sculley. I had the pleasure of having some discussions with George Marsaglia, who at 86 still was a great mathematician (and used his computer to find huge prime numbers with particular properties that made them useful for creating a pseudo-random number generator with a period of 10^45000).

    You'd have to be particularly unfortunate not to be able to use a computer at 73.
    And that photo that someone posted looks more like 90 than 73.
  22. gnasher729 macrumors P6


    Nov 25, 2005
    Just don't get her a computer with Windows 8, because she won't be able to handle that. Nor can I. Nor can anyone who I know, independent of age :D
  23. glenthompson macrumors 68000


    Apr 27, 2011
    Get her a refurbished 21" iMac from the Apple refurb store. Costs just over $1,000. It will be more than enough machine for her.
  24. ecrispy macrumors regular

    Oct 27, 2013
    For financial matters, the best advice is to get her in touch with a finance advisor you trust. Those people are generally out to make a profit so you have to be careful. But I've found people will tend not to dismiss them like they can dismiss family.

    Whatever solution you choose, record videos of how to accomplish tasks, preferably walk thrus with them. And save the videos so they can refer to them. This is what I plan to do when I get a Mac for my dad, who's a similar age.
  25. Klae17 macrumors 65816


    Jul 15, 2011

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