Burnaby woman gets first iPad—at 93

At 93, Irene Henri is always up for new challenges. That
At 93, Irene Henri is always up for new challenges. That's partly why the Burnaby resident got her first iPad last week.
— image credit: Wanda Chow/NewsLeader

A Burnaby woman got herself her first iPad days before her birthday.

There's perhaps nothing too unusual in that except Irene Henri is marking birthday No. 93.

And she's beating her three children to the punch.

Neither her two daughters nor her son, all in their 60s and scattered across the U.S., have tablet computers themselves.

Henri figures she got her first computer, a hand-me-down from her daughter, some time in the 1980s. More recently, she had been using a laptop for years to communicate with friends and family.

But when it started to act up and cause her problems, her 25-year-old granddaughter in California told her she simply had to get an iPad. And with that, she was convinced.

"You have to keep au courant, keep up to date," said Henri, a native of Pinewood, Ont. "I like the challenge."

Henri's late husband, Claudius Schlichting, was a mechanical engineer back in the days before computer use was widespread. She says they moved around a fair bit, which is how her children came to settle down in California, Washington state and Ohio.

Perhaps few moves exemplify her willingness to try new things than her decision in 2006, at the age of 85, to move from Long Beach, California to Burnaby, to help keep her younger sister company in the Metrotown area.

Compared to that, getting a new electronic toy to play with would seem pretty tame by comparison.

Friend Réjean Beaulieu, who contacted the NewsLeader for the story, called her "an incredible woman."

Beaulieu, 56, "adopted" Henri after losing his own mother and is continually being surprised by her. She doesn't slow down, even after breaking a hip five years ago.

"She pulled through."

He said he had been helping her over the years with her PC laptop and noted that she recently "got her eyes back" after cataract surgery. She's also the oldest resident in her seniors building.

When she expressed an interest in iPads, he showed her his own older model, demonstrating how it works.

"That same night she called me and said she wanted to buy one."

He accompanied her to the Apple Store at Metropolis at Metrotown. He then helped set it up for her. The day after she bought it, Henri answered her first FaceTime call from Beaulieu. "The light went on [the tablet] and she was quite excited."

Beaulieu said with a laugh, "Her kids, I think, are overwhelmed by now, and a little embarrassed" at their elderly mom surpassing their own grasps of technology.

Meanwhile, Henri is still learning her way around her new toy. She's named it Coco—"it is a girl, yes"—and is taking some glee in "shocking my old friends" in her building.

"I'm still enjoying my life," she said. "I feel like I want to live to be 193. There's always new things I want to experience."

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