At-Home Computer and Internet Basics for Seniors

A good foundation of computer and internet basics for seniors will greatly benefit those who are eager to improve their technological literacy. This computer and internet guide for seniors will walk you through everything you need to know about getting online with a computer, a tablet, and even a Chromebook. There are a lot of online courses available specifically designed to accommodate older adults, and if you need a more in-person approach, most local libraries offer free computer classes for seniors.

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Natasha McLachlan is a writer who currently lives in Southern California. She is an alumna of California College of the Arts, where she obtained her B.A. in Writing and Literature. Her current work revolves around insurance guides and informational articles. She truly enjoys helping others learn more about everyday, practical matters through her work.

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Laura Walker graduated college with a BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. She married her husband and began working in the family insurance business in 2005. She became a licensed agent and wrote P&C business focusing on personal lines insurance for 10 years. Laura serviced existing business and wrote new business. She now uses her insurance background to help educate...

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Reviewed by Laura Walker
Former Licensed Agent

UPDATED: Nov 17, 2020

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Technology has definitely moved at a much faster pace within the past decade than it has before. Unfortunately, not everyone can keep with it to fully benefit from and enjoy its perks.

Older people usually find themselves too overwhelmed in the face of touchscreen gadgets and are many are still discouraged when it comes to learning how to use them to improve their daily lives. However, that does not have to be the case. There is no age limit when it comes to the Internet.

Here is a comprehensive guide on how seniors can learn computer basics to reap the benefits of modern technology.

Computer Basics for Seniors

As with all other subjects, effective learning should start with the basics.

A good foundation on how computers and the internet work would greatly beneficial for seniors who are eager to improve their technological literacy.

There are a lot of online courses available online that are specifically designed to accommodate older adults. In addition, if you need a more in-person approach, most local libraries offer free computer classes for the elderly on their premises. Going for physical classes where you can ask questions of instructors while also learning and socializing with other people in the same situation can make the learning process faster.

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PCs vs. Apples vs. Tablet vs. Chromebook

If you are still looking for a gadget to buy or just wondering how these popular ones differ from each other, first do some research to learn which one would suit your needs and abilities the best.

PCs (personal computers): This is the one you may be most familiar with although they may look vastly different from the bulkier models of the 1990s and the early 2000s. Due to their bigger hardware, PCs are meant to be used in the home or office.

Apple gadgets: Apple is a popular brand of computing devices. They offer a variety of gadgets including smartphones, laptops, tablets, and computer accessories. The brand is most popular for the iPhone series of smartphones.

Tablet: A tablet is like an enlarged smartphone complete with the touchscreen, internet connectivity, and sometimes calling and texting features as well. This device is perfect for light internet browsing, playing games, and communicating. Another perk it has is that it is portable as well.

Chromebook: This is a new type of laptop computer designed by Google. It is different from traditional laptops because most of the data and programs reside in the Cloud instead of on the device itself. This allows the device to be faster and less prone to lag but may require a steady internet connection.

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Keyboard, Mouse and Other Input Devices

Input devices are hardware parts of a computer or device that are used to convey data and control signals to the device’s operating system. In simpler words, they are the parts responsible for controlling the computer.

Keyboard: A keyboard is an input device that is made of rows of buttons or keys that correspond with a character (letters, numbers, or symbols) used for inputting text onto the computer.

Mouse: The mouse is an input device used to point and click on the buttons and icons on the monitor of a device.

Touchpad/screen: Found on tablets and smartphones (sometimes in laptops as well), this device replaces the keyboard and mouse to perform input functions.

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Software

The word software pertains to the programs or applications (apps) that tell the computer how to work. These programs can be grouped into three categories according to their function.

Application software: This category refers to programs responsible for performing tasks from something as simple as word processing (Microsoft Word) to a task as complex as video editing (Windows Moviemaker).

System software: These types of software are what keeps your computer operating, hence they are also called operating systems (Windows 98, Windows Vista, Windows 10, etc.). Every computer requires an operating system to function.

Computer programming tools: These perform more technical functions than application software and are typically used for translating or combining program source codes.

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Internet Basics for Seniors

The Internet can serve as a gateway to a new world for seniors. It can lead to interesting pages and communities for hobbies, let you connect with faraway family and friends, and even pay bills online.

If you are an absolute beginner, it might be a good idea to have someone help you familiarize yourself with the jargon and programs you will need to surf the web.

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Computer and Internet Security for Seniors

As relatively new citizens of the online landscape, older adults are more prone to Internet scams and harmful viruses. You must be careful whenever you log online. Here are some useful tips to follow.

  • Use unique and strong passwords for every account.
  • Take advantage of privacy settings on social media
  • Be careful of what information you publicly share on your accounts.
  • Don’t respond to spam or any other suspicious emails.

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Computer Maintenance

You need to take care of your devices to avoid losing money on constant repairs or debugging. For starters, research about anti-virus software and install a good one on your device. Perform regular scans to ensure that your device is not compromised.

When it comes to hardware maintenance, remember to keep your devices clean by not using or keeping them in dusty or humid areas. Also, avoid completely draining your devices’ batteries before charging them. In addition, refrain from overcharging them as well as it can cause damage.

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Additional Help

Would you like to know how seniors are using the internet today? The World Economic Forum is a great place to start. Check out their page on How the internet is connecting the elderly. Pew Internet also has some facts and figures available on their page, Older adults and technology use.

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