Computing for Seniors

Image of senior couple being helped by a tech coach, from ShutterstockComputing for Seniors: a reader asks…

I’m trying to help my 85+ yo parents use modern technology. They want to use computers and got one, but are finding it too complicated to use. I’m ok to set them up with whatever, but can’t devote hours and  hours to teach them how to use all the features. What would you suggest?

I’ve found that giving our senior citizens a computer can be fraught with ongoing problems. In particular, you might have to explain over and over again how to do simple (to you) functions on a computer. So I’d like to suggest you swap out the computer for a tablet. While you can get Tablet PCs and Android-powered tablets, I’ve found that the Apple iPad is the easiest for seniors to use. Here’s what I’d suggest you do:

  1. buy them an iPad – no need to get the iPad Pro, the standard 9.7″ will be fine. Be sure to get the 128gb storage memory option. I’ll leave the color choice (space grey, silver or gold) to you, or you can let them choose.
  2. set it up for them in advance – sign them up for an email account (if they don’t have one already), create an Apple ID tied to their email account, and setup the mail, contacts and calendars apps on the iPad for them.
  3. add any apps you think they might use, as well as icons that link to various websites that they might find helpful.

news-app-collageFor the apps they might use, you could consider weather, news and social media apps. But don’t go overboard here, less is better. If there’s a news app that is the same as a print subscription they already have, you can setup an online account for them and link the app to their account. For helpful links to websites, might I suggest:


To save a website to an icon on the home screen, tap the standard Apple sharing icon when you’re looking at the website (square with up arrow). Then tap the Add to Home Screen option. Feel free to re-arrange icons on their home screen, and I’d avoid using a lot of sub-folders – just make one and put all the apps you think they’ll never use in it.

Once you have the iPad setup and logged into whatever accounts they use, it’s time to deliver the new iPad and go over how they use it. Simple basics like plugging it into the wall charger to keep it charged up, turning it on and turning it fully off, the Home button, and how to use email and other apps. Remember to go slowly and point out to them the links you saved to the home screen for those tutorials – they can watch those anytime. And explain to them that they don’t need to print anything, because it’s always available to them on their iPad.

Don’t forget to set a lock code they can remember and if you think they’re up for it, enroll some of their fingerprints. Visit the Settings > General > Accessibility and turn on things like Bold Text, Larger Text, Button Shapes and On/Off labels. If you think they’re capable, teach them how to invoke Siri and let them know they can ask anything they want. Also show them how to use the dictation feature so they don’t have to type (as much). If you have an iPhone/iPad, show them how to use Facetime. And by all means, be sure to tell them that pressing the Home button always gets them out of whatever they got into. The iPad is pretty robust, as long as they treat it with reasonable care it should give them years of trouble-free service and require very little of your time (you might have to install the updates for them occasionally).

With just a little practice, they will be surfing the web, doing email, and enjoying the internet and modern technology without any of the headaches and complexity usually associated with using a standard computer. And if money isn’t a huge deal, his and hers iPads would be even better!

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