Teaching the Elderly to use Computers and the Internet

While some people over 60 are great with computers, many have never used one before. They may believe that they are too old to learn something new. At times, older people have ‘technophobia’ – they may be scared they will damage the computer. Whatever the reasons, it is important to understand and deal with their concerns if you want to help them learn about computing and the World Wide Web.


To get the elderly interested in learning, it’s a good idea to tell them about some of the benefits of using computers and the Internet, including:

  • Be in touch with friends and family across the globe using Skype and Facebook.
  • Email friends and family – chainmail jokes and e-greeting cards are a great way to make learning about email more fun.
  • Set appointments and birthdays in their email calendar and get email reminders of upcoming events. Gmail is great for this.
  • Apps and games to exercise their memory.
  • Apps to record diets and fitness.
  • Relive the past with photos, even editing, cropping, and making collages using apps.
  • Save photos sent to them in emails, and put them on a USB stick, take them to the shops and get them printed.

Researching their family tree

  • Purchase groceries online and get them delivered on sites like Coles and Woolworths.
  • Watch new TV shows and catch up on episodes that they missed.
  • Sign up to discount websites like Scoopon, Groupon, and Living Social to find deals for restaurants and other establishments in their area.
  • Listen to their favourite old music and find new music on sites like Pandora. They can also buy songs in the iTunes store.


Top Ten Important Points:

  1. For those who can already do some things on a computer, let them show you first what they can do. This creates a foundation that you can build off. If you try to teach them something they already know how to do, they may feel patronized.
  2. Remember to go slowly! Rushing through things can confuse and overwhelm. Simply watch them engaging with the computer – try to imagine what they are thinking if they pause between steps, and coach them along gently.
  3. Technical terms are usually completely foreign to the elderly. This does not just include words like, ‘cookies’ and ‘buffering’ but also terms like ‘upload’ and ‘URL’. You can explain some of these words to them and show them how to look up definitions online if they get confused by a term.
  4. Health and physical issues may hinder their learning process, and the ability to use technology easily. Some things that seem like second nature to younger folk may be difficult for some forgetful older people to remember, like right mouse clicking over files to present options.
  5. Teaching them to teach others will help them strengthen their skills. Once they know how, you may suggest they teach their friends how to open a Gmail account, Facebook, or Skype, so they can all enjoy the benefits of the Internet together.
  6. Some older people have never used a keyboard board before. A good starting point is to get them writing in Word, to let them get used to finding all the letters. They might ask why it isn’t in alphabetical order, and you can explain that typing levers in old typewriters used to jam, and the QWERTY layout turned out to be the best way to avoid jams. Some older people have tremors and hold keys down for too long, ending up with multiple letters when they only wanted the one. Filter Keys is a great way to avoid this by slowing down the keyboard.
  7. Using a mouse can be very difficult, and research has shown that touch screen tablets are easier for the elderly to navigate intuitively, once they have been taught how to do so. Carrying these devices around is also easier, and the absence of many wires and multiple components (computer, screen, mouse, keyboard, speakers) can make the whole learning process less intimidating.
  8. The elderly may think that their tablet needs to be plugged to work, like a toaster or fridge. You can explain to them how the battery charges up so they can move around with their device, and how to check the level of their battery.
  9. Sometimes text can be too small for them to read. You can change the settings on the computer or tablet for them so that text will appear larger. The same is true for the volume of sounds. They may not even be aware of the option to increase and decrease volume and text size.
  10. 10. People from older generations may be under the impression that nothing comes free. They may think that website content costs money, or that they have pay per use for apps. It’s worth explaining to them that most things are free, like articles on the BBC website, and most online games. When it comes to buying things online, older people are often very concerned about using their credit card details online. It’s very important to explain to them that security is very tight around most big Internet businesses, and to talk to them about the necessary precautions they need to take. Show them how to identify Internet scams and fake emails appearing to be from banks etc. You should also help them set up anti-virus software.

older generations


The idea of “keeping up with the young ones” isn’t the best incentive to get the elderly online, because it gives them the feeling that they have been left behind, which may incite fear or even apathy. Stepping away from this and showing them that the Internet is perhaps better suited to an older person’s lifestyle than the younger lifestyle, maybe the best way to get them interested. At the end of the day, if you keep patience and make the learning experience fun for them, they will probably find that they thoroughly enjoy the benefits of the new technological world.

And if you have any doubts, you can always call us on 1300 016 017.

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