Fact Sheet: Computer 101 for Older Adults

Computers are an integral part of the way we communicate, shop and learn. They offer valuable tools for tracking and accessing information, organizing finances and even expressing our creativity. A recent survey found that 44 percent of adults over age 65 own either a desktop or laptop computer. Despite free computer access at many libraries or senior centers, some older adults simply do not use the computer from lack of confidence to do so or have health issues affecting motor skills and vision. With the right understanding and tools however, computer use can open up a world of possibilities.

Consider these personal computer (PC) use options:

There are many options to consider when buying a PC such as choosing hardware, software, processor speed, memory and selecting a monitor or printer. Shop wisely by comparing brands, options and reading reviews from other buyers or checking ratings from sources like Consumer Reports. Don’t be afraid to ask your sales representative to explain the use and value of options

Creating a Document

There are two types of frequently used software programs: one for working with words called a word processor and the other, a spreadsheet for working with numbers. The most commonly used word processing software is Microsoft Word. It is often packaged in a bundle that includes Excel (spreadsheet), along with Outlook (email) and other applications, each with its own help menu and tutorial.

A word processor can help you create a variety of documents such as letters or cards, flyers, calendars, charts and budgets and newsletters. It may even offer options to print envelopes and labels. There are easy to use templates available and numerous text styles, colors and graphics for personalization. Once completed, click print. Commonly used printers are inkjet or laser in either black/ white or color. Always make sure you save your documents and for easy file transporting or as a back-up, a USB flash drive is a good device.

Working With Media

Your PC has the tools that allow you to work with media like music, videos and digital photos. Most computers have built in programs like Windows Media Player, Photo Gallery and Movie Maker. With these programs you can customize music playlists, syncronize files with a portable device, import movies from a camcorder, stream media from the Internet, edit and organize photos and burn CDs or DVDs. Access the help menu in any application for “how to” advice.

Photo Suggestions:

Surfing the Internet

Accessing the Internet may be the main reason older adults use or have a computer. The Internet creates excellent opportunities to conduct financial business, access personal or health records, even for entertainment and educational purposes. It is great way to keep in touch with family and friends through email, photo sharing, online video calls and social networking sites. A recent survey found that 51 percent of online adults 50 and over use a social networking site like Facebook or LinkedIn. The baby boomer generation makes it a part of their daily routine. When online, always make sure you follow safety precautions to reduce your risk of being the victim of a scam or infecting your computer with a virus.

For more information read Internet 101 for Older Adults (FS 12-05).


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