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Easy Ways to Help Seniors with Computers

Updated on February 10, 2013

The New Generation Gap

Growing up, my parents taught me alot of basic skills that are necessary for everyday life. How to tie my shoe, do laundry, and ride a bike are all rites of passage that are necessary to every kid feeling a part of the social collective.

But as I got older, my parents were there more as guides than as teachers but of course I learned from them.

Now as a young adult, the tables have turned in a way. As my parents have matured, they need my help to do things as well. And chief among them are technological issues. Since I was young, I have been the unofficial IT person in the house.

Simple things such as VCR rewinding, setting the time on the microwave, and so on grew to be easier but unfortunately the technology continued to change. One type of technology that never fails to change are computers.

I have been using computers almost as long as I have been reading and somehow through all the struggle and strife, I have managed to understand the changing frontier of computers.

My parents, are another story. They have been around computers for the majority of their adult lives but not in the same way. Therefore, anything computer related is still a challenge.

And while there are tips and classes available, there is still a great deal of information that serves to help seniors and their loved ones helping them get better acquainted with computers.

Buying A Computer

For anyone buying a computer these days is like buying a car. You want it to fit your needs and your lifestyle. As we all know, computers come in many forms and styles. Here are some tips to helping a senior buy a computer.

  • What is the computer going to be used for? Is it going to be entertainment only or for projects and family events?
  • What type of computer best fits the lifestyle of the senior? There are laptops, netbooks, and desktops available.
  • Is this computer personal or for the family?
  • PC or Mac? If the senior buying the computer is used to a specific operating system, it's best to stick with that.
  • What kind of accessories are going to be needed? For instance, if they plan to do alot of writing and swapping of information they may need a printer. If they enjoy traveling, you might want to consider a digital camera.
  • What kinds of software will be needed for the computer? If the computer comes with Windows or Mac's operating system there still might be additional programs needed like games, greeting card software, and so on.

If you are uncertain about anything or need additional help it is always good to consult an IT professional at a department store or someone who specializes in IT customer service. Also there are some accessories you may want to consider purchasing as well.

  1. Printer, Scanner, Copier or All-in-One Device: For the preservation of documents, correspondence, or personal records this is really an essential.
  2. USB or Flash Drive: For anyone who wants to have a backup of files or a way to access files on another device.
  3. External Hard Drive: A rainy day jar for your computer :).
  4. Surge Protector: This is good in case your rainy day turns into a thunderstorm. Your computer will thank you.

Setting Up the Computer

Buying the computer is just the first step in helping a senior get acquainted to the computer world. The next step is now in getting the computer ready for usage. Unless you are confident in your abilities and experiences with computers or have an IT degree, I would recommend having someone else helping you setup the computer for the senior in your life. That could be a friend, family member, or the technicians and associates who work at the place the computer was purchased from.

But before you give your computer away to someone to get it setup it would be good to have some questions handy. Also, if the senior has purchased the programs they want to use it would be good to also include those for installation.

Here are some questions you may want to ask the installer:

  1. What kind of virus program comes with the computer and how can it be maintained?
  2. Is this operating system programmed for updates?
  3. Are there some programs and services that can be removed since they probably will not be used?
  4. Can you give me an extra copy of the service agreement contact information for the warranty?
  5. Are you available should a problem arise?

Once the computer is setup it would be a good idea to have the operating manuals and instructional booklets readily available for the senior to access should they have any questions. Also, if the computer comes with a help website it would be good to program that into the internet browser that will be primarily used by the senior.

Organizing Desktop Programs

Even though the internet is now becoming a selling point for computer usage, there are still other important programs to consider putting on a computer.

  • Microsoft Office (Primarily MS Word)- The entire suite has its place but Word is the most commonly used program due to the fact anything from resumes to letters can be composed on there. If the senior is still working or involved in other activities, you may want to ask what other programs are needed.
  • Quicken/Quickbooks- This comes in handy for anyone who likes to do their own taxes. Even though you can do it online, they might want the program so they can keep up with their expenses monthly.
  • Electronic Files- This is a new phenomenon inspired partly by the move offices are making now to keep files organized instead of stuffing paper receipts into desk files.
  • Adobe Photoshop or Any Home Photo Editor- If the senior in your life likes to keep up with photographs, this is something that is a must have.
  • Games- Most computers come with games pre-installed but they might want something not already on the desktop installed.
  • Language Programs like Rosetta Stone- For anyone who wants to learn or maintain knowledge of a second language.
  • Greeting Card Program- Not to sound cheap but last I checked a decent greeting card is at least two or three dollars and if you have a family like mine where a good group of birthdays fall in the same month, this comes in handy.
  • iTunes, Rhapsody, or any other music player- Being that the senior is now using a computer they probably have CDs and other files to be converted to MP3 format.

Introducing the Internet

By now most people have at least heard of the internet. That being said, there's still alot to get used to in terms of dealing with the internet. I say work with the basics and move up from there.

The Basics:

  • E-Mail: It's essential for most everything that goes on online. At the very least they need a free account with a reasonable amount of storage to get deals on food and business and correspond with friends and family.
  • Online Bank Account: Many banks have a way you can get the monthly statement via e-mail. In between time, you can monitor activity with a login and password.
  • Online Bill Pay: One thing everyone needs to know is where to pay their utilities online because I can imagine many of them will give you special incentives to go online and pay or demand it.
  • News: My dad likes to read the morning paper but these days the paper is looking thinner than ever. It won't be soon before long that all newspapers and news is available primarily online.
  • Shopping: Alot of senior citizens I know have a hard time trying to do this, but as long as you go to a secure site of a reputable business that you know about- it will be worth it in the long run.
  • Home/Vehicle Repairs: We still get phone books but now they are a secondary resource to actually receiving information about repairs online from trusted sites and forums.
  • Minor Health Issues: This may be Pandora's box but as long as its in the range of a minor injury or cold this can only help. However it is easy to become the well-known Google/WebMD hypochondriac.
  • Restaurant/Business Reviews: If you're like me- I hardly check out stuff without reading at least one review.
  • Movie/Music/TV Reviews: Same as above.
  • Weather: Sometimes the weatherman takes too long to get to the forecast or starts talking like Sheldon from Big Bang Theory. Either way it's good to know.

Other Skills:

  • Fill Out Forms- Job applications are not the only things online. You can do your taxes, apply for loans, credit cards, and so on.
  • Order Dinner- Instead of calling Domino's, go to the website and order it. That way you can use their real-time tracker to see where your pizza is. Other restaurants have great online ordering programs as well.
  • Check Store Supplies- Some stores like Wal-Mart let you check the in-store availability of a particular product before you go in there.
  • Pre-Order Library Books- I love this feature of my library. I can choose the books I want and as soon as they come in I get an email notification to pick them up.
  • Social Media- Seniors are a big social media demographic. And depending on your desire to communicate you can pick the site that best suits your needs.
  • File a BBB complaint- The Better Business Bureau now as a place where you can submit online a complaint to the closest office.

Additional Tips and Resources

Computers are becoming commonplace in the modern world and while it can be frightening, it should not be overwhelming.

If the senior in your life needs to learn basic computing skills, it is good to contact the local Senior Resource Center, your public library, or look up private computer companies in the area for information.

As computers change, it is also good to remember that not everyone needs the same type of technology for their station in life. Keeping the lingo and information simple is best.

But above all life with computers can be a fun, interesting and challenging experience.


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    • Alecia Murphy profile imageAUTHOR

      Alecia Murphy 

      5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      Hi Paul,

      I"m glad you found this hub useful. And you're right it's a good thing there are online courses for computer programs. Thanks for coming by and commenting!

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand


      This is a useful hub for seniors, their loved ones, or any person deficient in basic computer skills. I have only been using the computer and its applications for the past 10 years. Actually, if I hadn't received an overseas job assignment 10 years ago, my entry into computer technology might have been less. Although as a senior I have learned a lot in the past few years, there are still applications which I don't know well such as Excel, Powerpoint, and Publisher. The good thing is that there are free classes on line where you can get training in these applications. Voted up as useful and sharing with followers.

    • Alecia Murphy profile imageAUTHOR

      Alecia Murphy 

      5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      Hi Au fait,

      It is interesting to see how many people don't know basic computer functions. Seniors seem to especially get the cold shoulder since they didn't grow up around computers but everyone needs help. Thanks as usual!

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      5 years ago from North Texas

      You are so right that older people sometimes need help learning how to utilize many of the programs on their computers. I have been surprised to discover that many of my classmates at the university (18-35 year olds) don't know how to do lots of things on computers either.

      Voted you up, interesting, useful, and will share!

    • Alecia Murphy profile imageAUTHOR

      Alecia Murphy 

      6 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      Thanks rajan jolly!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      6 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Very useful hub for those who are new to computers. Great job!

      Voted up, useful.

    • Alecia Murphy profile imageAUTHOR

      Alecia Murphy 

      6 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      Hi Sharkye11!

      I think you're right. It is hard explaining to people that the internet does not automatically come with the computer. But I would at this point liken it to buying a television and thinking you automatically get Cable/Satellite when you purchase the television. Thanks so much for coming by and commenting!

    • Sharkye11 profile image

      Jayme Kinsey 

      6 years ago from Oklahoma

      An excellent hub, Alecia! I've noticed that one of the most difficult things to explain to people are just getting into computers is that the "internet" is not "on the computer itself." It is a hard concept, especially for older people, that their email, newspaper, facebook, etc can be accessed from any computer. And that if the internet has crashed, no computer in the house is going to open any of those programs.

      Kudos for the great advice on what to look for when buying a computer That's helpful to people of all ages!

    • Alecia Murphy profile imageAUTHOR

      Alecia Murphy 

      6 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      Hi Michelle,

      That's great about your dad being willing to learn about computers. Thanks for coming by, commenting, and sharing!

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Happy to see my dad touching base with the computer!! He's great at it now and I'm proud of him. He was willing to learn, fortunately! This is great, and I'm sharing!

    • Alecia Murphy profile imageAUTHOR

      Alecia Murphy 

      6 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      Hi Vinaya,

      I hope this hub will help you assist your older relatives with computers. Thank you!

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      6 years ago from Nepal


      Some of my old relatives want me to help them learn computing, and I don't know how to make them understand in easy way. Thanks for the headway.

    • Alecia Murphy profile imageAUTHOR

      Alecia Murphy 

      6 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      Thanks injured lamb!

    • Alecia Murphy profile imageAUTHOR

      Alecia Murphy 

      6 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      Thank you so much teaches12345!

    • Injured lamb profile image

      Injured lamb 

      6 years ago

      Great hub with the information needed...thanks for your effort, you have given us the easy ways to help seniors with computers systematically...appreciate much Alecia...

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      I admire those seniors who are brave enough to learn technology. Your hub will help them to understand the basics. Voted up.

    • Alecia Murphy profile imageAUTHOR

      Alecia Murphy 

      6 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      Thank you Stephanie! I agree that more seniors are becoming interested in computing when they retired but there are still alot of things to consider.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 

      6 years ago from USA

      Good job on this hub! You've brought up a lot of points that anyone should consider when selecting a computer for personal use. I think that more and more seniors are becoming interested in using computers even if they didn't use them before retirement. However, many of them do need help setting up and getting started with the basics. Voted up and useful!

    • Alecia Murphy profile imageAUTHOR

      Alecia Murphy 

      6 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      Thanks eric-carter! I guess the saying the student becomes the teacher is true sometimes :).

    • eric-carter profile image


      6 years ago from Fulham, UK

      I still remember the hard times I had, trying to teach my mother how to check her e-mail, and play a movie, you know - simple stuff. Now she's even better than me, think it runs in the family :) Great hub! voting up

    • Alecia Murphy profile imageAUTHOR

      Alecia Murphy 

      6 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      Hey Sunshine,

      It's great that parents and kids have more to share thanks to computers. Thanks as always :).

    • Alecia Murphy profile imageAUTHOR

      Alecia Murphy 

      6 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      Thank you Mary! I agree the computer is a great tool for people to continuing to learn as they age.

    • Alecia Murphy profile imageAUTHOR

      Alecia Murphy 

      6 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      Thanks Janine! I think laptops are replacing desktops simply because they are easier to use and more portable. And like you said it's becoming more and more important for people to know something about computers for work, so I'm glad this hub is coming in handy.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      6 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I'm not yet a senior. I'm actually a long way off, but my daughters taught me many tricks of the trade on the PC. I am now teaching them tricks of the trade. Awesome video, those two are hilarious! Great hub Alecia!!

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      6 years ago from Florida

      I think knowing how to use the computer is wonderful for seniors. I credit using the computer to helping my to keep on learning new things! I have helped many of my senior friends learn how to use theirs, and they are so grateful!

      Great Hub. I voted it UP, etc. will share, Pin and Tweet

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 

      6 years ago from New York, New York

      God bless both my parents, because somehow they both now are able to use laptop computers for everyday use. My dad taught himself for work a few years ago and my mom a little over year ago showed interest. My brother and I got her her own laptop and we have helped her along the way. Your article is very informative and quite interesting too. I have of course voted, shared and tweeted too!

    • Alecia Murphy profile imageAUTHOR

      Alecia Murphy 

      6 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      Thanks alocsin! I wish you the best in helping your mom :).

    • Alecia Murphy profile imageAUTHOR

      Alecia Murphy 

      6 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      HI Cogerson,

      Thank you. And I wish your mom the best in building her computer knowledge!

    • alocsin profile image


      6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Great advice. I like all the questions that you need to ask the senior -- I'll be doing this for my Mom to help her get a new system. Voting this Up and Useful.

    • Cogerson profile image


      6 years ago from Virginia

      Excellent hub...I will be forwarding this hub to my mother via an e-mail link. My mother has gotten much better on the computer but has a long way to go....I love you mom....just in case she reads this

      So thanks for helping out the seniors across the world with this jam packed information hub.....job well done. Voted up and very useful.


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