Why We Did This

My Dad
Dad, staring into space. He’s done that since I was a kid!

There is an old saying, that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’. While the author of that saying is no longer known, the saying is as true today as when it was first uttered.

My Father has Alzheimer’s. He can take care of his personal needs, like cooking and bathing. He drives short distances, as long as he has his GPS to guide him. He can do his shopping on his own. If fact, he is very pleased with the new Wrangler shirts he bought that have cooling technology built in to the fabric.

However, there are many things he can no longer do. He has a hard time remembering how to pay his bills. Any significant planning, like a trip somewhere, is nearly impossible for him. He forgets certain words, which is really frustrating to him. But most importantly, he has almost no ability to use technology. Even a simple device, such as an iPad, that we take for granted every day is too much for him to figure out.

To give you a bit of background on my Dad, not being able to use technology is a huge change for him. He got a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University in 1959. Following graduation, he spent 3 years in a course at GE that allowed him to experiment with many different types of mechanical designs. He went from there to designing jet engine components, and then to NASA where he built the math models that allowed the moon missions to take place. Dad ended a 40 year career running huge Department of Defense projects with hundreds or thousands of employees. The point is that Dad is smart.

Last October, he wanted to get my address so he could send me a book. It took me 45 minutes to get it to him over the phone, as he wrote the information out of sequence, and he had a very hard time just getting things on paper. Things like this are frustrating to him, as he feels embarrassed about his lack of ability to do basic tasks.

In January, I gave him a new iPad on my phone plan so he could continue to surf the internet reading about science. He was unable to use it. I spent two and a half hours (again, over the phone), trying to teach him how to use Safari on the iPad. It was just too complex. Even the icons I had put on the Safari desktop had text that were too small for dad to read. The icons had no meaning to him. In the end, his stock iPad sat on his kitchen counter and was not touched.

At that time, I had a thought: What if I could replace the interface on an iPad with something far simpler to use?

Thus, DadPad was born. DadPad allows me to add information, through a web site that we designed, and within 1 minute that information is on my Dad’s iPad. I can give him new web sites, or my address, or anything else. That information shows up on 6 big buttons on the iPad, with big text that he can see. I can lock down the iPad so he can’t break out of my app. Basically, he opens the cover, and he sees the DadPad interface. It is very simple for him to use, and he can’t get lost, as a ‘Home’ button is located on every screen. Now, Dad can again read the articles he loves, and play solitaire, and most importantly he can feel connected! Can you imagine what this world is like without the ability to use technology? Now Dad doesn’t have to have that feeling.

My Dad is a phenomenal man, and I hate seeing him sitting and watching TV because he has nothing else to do. However, I realize not just Alzheimer’s patients live this way. Technology changes fast. The elderly just don’t have the ability to keep up. DadPad keeps a consistent interface, so the changes are hidden. Consistency and simplicity make for a great experience for the elderly iPad user.

Necessity, in this case, was not wanting to see my Dad fade away just through boredom and loneliness. The invention, DadPad, is designed to allow people like my Dad, who have problems dealing with technology, to be able to keep up in our modern world.

~ Brent Tucker, Founder, DadPad, LLC