5 tips on buying tech for the Baby Boomers in your family

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The holidays are upon us and you need a gift for Mom, Dad or Uncle Harry. You know they’d be thrilled getting a Duck Dynasty wall calendar filled with “down home wisdom” but, damn it, you have a Bachelors Degree and you’re trying your best to prevent the planet from devolving and taking your parents with it. So you’ve decided to help them upgrade to the 21st century.

Whether you’re thinking a DVR because, well there just aren’t enough NCIS reruns as it is, or perhaps a tablet so that pile of paperbacks in the garage doesn’t start to take up a second parking spot, here are a few suggestions for buying old dogs new tricks.

Purchase from a brick and mortar store. Sure, you can get a better deal online, but the eventual headache isn’t worth it. The gift recipient is going to have a ton of questions, and many Boomers don’t know what “FAQ” means so they are going to need a place to go and a person to talk to. Best Buy, Staples, whatever, the important thing is that there is a physical store and they have a location nearby. If you order a device from a website, where is your Mom going to take it when it inevitably stops working? Speaking of which…

Get the extended warranty or service plan. You know the extended warranty is a rip-off and so do I, but it will put your family member at ease so they might actually dare to use the thing. Digital technology is a mystery to many people and they are convinced they will mess it up somehow. Either the thing never gets taken out of the box or they only use the simplest of functions so that it ends up being a really expensive clock. If they know you already spent extra money on a service plan, they won’t feel so bad when they break it. And they will break it – or at least delete crucial files – so it won’t be a waste of money after all. More importantly, they will be more inclined to call the store to fix it rather than you.

Go for the low-end model. As mentioned earlier; you’ll be lucky if they even use 10 percent of the features. So why waste money on exotic, advanced user functions that your dad will only talk about in a sarcastic tone? (“Mega-whatzit? Oh, sure, that’ll come in handy!”) Your goal is to get them to step into the modern world, so start with baby steps. Think basic. Keep it simple.

Buttons, make sure it has buttons. Nothing sends a Baby Boomer into fits of rage faster than soft menus. They don’t even really get the concept of soft menus, let alone how to navigate them. Whatever the device – GPS, camera, tablet – it needs to have at least four physical buttons. Hopefully they are labeled, preferably with words and not just icons. This one is tricky because manufacturers hate buttons – they cost money and create design issues – so there will never be enough to satisfy your older relatives. Just try and get as many buttons as you can. It will give them hope.

Finally, if you really want to get in the spirit of giving, after you buy the device, go to the company website, print out the user manual and include it with your gift. Nothing comes with a manual anymore because corporations won’t spend money on printing, especially when the internet is a limitless resource for information. But Mom or Dad will appreciate having those pieces of paper at their fingertips, and not needing to use one piece of technology just to figure out how to use another piece of technology.

The thing to remember is: You’re giving a gift and hoping to make them happy. So try not to send them into a cyber minefield. Their view of technology is different from yours, so appeal to their sensibility, not yours… even if it goes against your better judgment.

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