Never too old to learn computing

Discussion in 'General Mac Discussion' started by Doctor Q, Jan 12, 2004.

  1. Doctor Q Administrator

    Doctor Q

    Staff Member

    Sep 19, 2002
    Los Angeles
    Tonight the oldest member of my extended family starts his first computer class, "Computer Basics", at a local adult school. He turns 87 next month! This is the same guy who had me come over to set the clock on his VCR. He decided to buy a computer and take the plunge. I'm really proud of him.

    How will he do in the class? I don't know. But for a lot of beginners I know, the first step is the hardest - deciding that you are going to make the effort to learn something new, without feeling intimidated.

    Have any of you had experiences with seniors learning to use their computer?
  2. CamH macrumors member

    Jan 11, 2004
    I find that anyone who is positive and open minded about computer usage usually has no trouble getting the basics down. Someone who constantly says, "I suck at using computers," usually tends to have trouble. It all depends on his willingness to learn.
  3. mactastic macrumors 68040


    Apr 24, 2003
    Did he buy a mac or did he go wintel? That's good to hear though!
  4. winwintoo macrumors 6502

    Nov 26, 2003
    Hi, I volunteer at a senior's education center in the computer lab during the introductory classes.

    It is amazing to watch them - a lot like watching children - the wonder they experience when they get over the first hurdle of being afraid.

    I find that when I put learning computers into terms they individually can understand, it makes it easier for them.

    We recently gave my 83 year old mother my spare iMac and she's hooked up to the internet and keeps busy emailing everyone. It's fun to watch her and listen to her excitement.

    The challenge is finding software and mouses and keyboards for their special needs - failing eyesight, arthritic joints etc. The memory isn't what it once was, but they are so enthusiastic.

    Anybody out there interested in developing software, there is a wide open market for older people. Sounds like a business opportunity to me.

  5. Waluigi macrumors 6502

    Apr 29, 2003
    Re: Never too old to learn computing

    Yes, it's both rewarding, and frustrating!

    I help some of my neighbors who are senior citizens with their computers all the time. Most of them use windows 98 and have AOL, thus have many many problems. I really feel awful when I try to ape down computer terms into things they can understand, but it is working.

    Anyway, companies should seriously look into making computers senior-friendly, espically when the senior population is ever rising....and these new seniors are baby boomers, who spend, spend, spend.....

  6. Doctor Q thread starter Administrator

    Doctor Q

    Staff Member

    Sep 19, 2002
    Los Angeles
    I purposely didn't mention that part, hoping nobody would notice. :rolleyes:

    He's in the Wintel branch of the family. His grandson-in-law works for a Windows developer and is his current guide to the technical world, so I wasn't surprised he's gone with a PC. I've got the ear of my branch of the family, so of course they all know Macs are superior in all the ways that count. Especially for beginners.

    If he can tame Windows it'll therefore be an even more impressive accomplishment for an 87-year-old. And maybe I'll get him to go Mac for his second computer!
  7. AMDMACMAN macrumors newbie

    Jan 5, 2004
    My grandfather, who is 75, just finished a couple of basic computer corses. One is basic internet/email and the other in MS office. He uses a spare wintel box(p2 266) that my uncle had lying around. He gets along fine with it. His memory is not so good so i had to make "post its" that are stuck to his monitor,of how get into programs. Its kind of funny. It goes something like this.

    Typing program: Double click the W.
    Email program: double click the picture of an envelope.
    internet program: double click the big E.

    he will get it eventually.
  8. jefhatfield Retired


    Jul 9, 2000
    Re: Never too old to learn computing

    i taught networking to seniors in my computer group and on a whole, they were very sharp

    the smartest people i have ever seen regarding computers were young hackers living at home who were up to no good, then seniors with a lot of time on their hands and into their new hobby, and then, in last place, people in the computer field who do it for a paycheck and largely hate the darn beige box anyways whether they built the thing or program code for it

    computers do not requre a formal education to get to know and one does not have to be a certain age to benefit from it...this is one reason the personal computer revolution started by wozniak was such a society changing event

    take other hobbies...i have a friend who likes to write journals for phd's around the that takes a lot of research and formal education

    i have another friend who travels to do ironman triathalons in all kinds of nasty weather...that takes a certain level of fitness to just finish a race

    i think i will stay with computers, thank you:p
  9. MattG macrumors 68040


    May 27, 2003
    Asheville, NC
    I tend to agree with this...the people that go into classes saying "I hate computers, I suck at computers" are usually the ones who end up not learning anything because they have this preconceived notion that they're not going to be able to do it.
  10. hob macrumors 68020


    Oct 4, 2003
    London, UK
    i'm trying to teach my mum to use a pc OR mac, either is good, but my only mac is my iBook. I think she would most benefit from knowing windows, because, to be honest, (and lets not start a debate on this one) it's what she most likely to encounter everywhere, and also when she get's sick of it, I can lure her to joyous Mac OS :D

    She's not exactly a senior citizen, but she is pushing 50! I, and my late father, have all struggled to teach her to use something computer based - so has anyone got and suggestions or links that I may find useful??

  11. winwintoo macrumors 6502

    Nov 26, 2003
    My 83 year old Mom was interested in computers - fascinated by anything computer related actually. She was impressed that I earned my living using one, and delighted when my sisters bought computers for surfing and disappointed when one of my brothers bought a computer and left it sitting unused in the basement (it wasn't a Mac so I don't blame him:D)

    In spite of her interest, we couldn't get her to actually USE a computer until we were visiting another brother and he installed a slot machine game on his computer and showed her how to play it.

    She was hooked!!

    Now she has her own computer and after mastering the slots game, moved on to writing her memories and now has installed internet (DSL - so it's always on) and is kept busy emailing everyone.

    So you ask what is the key? Show her something that will really interest her that she can do with a computer.

    In the classes I assist with at the senior's center, the folks want to learn to use a computer to: do genealogy, keep in touch with grandchildren far away, make greeting cards, keep track of pictures, find a soul-mate, compose the church newsletter, keep track of investments, the list is endless but in all cases, there was one compelling interest that got them interested.

    If your Mom is only nearing 50, she may remember all the hype about how computers were going to take away jobs, and heard the horror stories about people who were competent in their jobs being reduced to tears because they were forced to use a computer with little or no training. Fear may be playing a part in her resistance.

    Hope this helps, m
  12. K12MacTech macrumors member

    Jul 29, 2003
    We have to create our instructions to our teachers in the same simple terms in order for them to be able to do basic stuff. These are K-12 public, certified teachers. I can accept it for new users, but these teachers have been using basically the same software for the past five years and still don't get it. Scary, since they are the ones "teaching" my children.
  13. winwintoo macrumors 6502

    Nov 26, 2003
    I have a friend whose first computer was a 286 PC back in the days when a 286 was a WOW speed demon. She's been upgrading regularly and now has a top of the line machine running WinXP.

    I would have expected her to have figured out by now how to find a file that she has saved and although she has had internet access as long as it's been available, she only recently found out how to find things using Google.

    I worked in the IT department of a large corporation and we had managers who didn't know that Word would wrap text at the end of a line and they would send out long documents full of unnecessary carriage returns.

    I was attending a conference where our company had a display manned by a well respected upper-manager (who had earlier tried to fire me - but that's another story) I was walking by our display and he sheepishly called me over and in a quiet panic asked me if I knew how to turn the computers on.

    Another manager who was the lead on a client-server project used her PC to make a mainframe connection and used the "editor" on the mainframe to do all the documentation for the project - even though the project had no mainframe components. The whole team, all PC developers who had never used the mainframe had to be given access to the mainframe so they could read the documentation.

    There is no accounting for people's stupidity. m
  14. ejb190 macrumors 65816


    It's not part of my job, but I spend a good amount of helping secretarial staff (who are mostly 45+) with computer problems. The big struggle I have is getting them over the "if you click the wrong button you will break it" syndrome. Once I showed my Dad Ctrl+Z, he became almost fearless!

    I tried to get my folks a Mac, but my Mom wanted a PC because that it what she has at work. So they have a Dell with XP on it. She complains she can't figure out the one at home because it dosen't look like the one at work. So I check out her work computer one day and discover all of her work applications run in some form of terminal window!
  15. Doctor Q thread starter Administrator

    Doctor Q

    Staff Member

    Sep 19, 2002
    Los Angeles
    If you can take the time to teach her yourself, and you are a patient person, she'll probably like that method of learning best. When teaching somebody one on one, here are a few tips:

    * Be patient. If your personality doesn't allow it, forget being a good teacher.

    * Let them do the typing and clicking, no matter how much slower it is than if you grabbed the mouse and keyboard and did it for them.

    * Make it relevant by teaching them with activities THEY are interested in. For example, I like to start any Internet lesson off with the question "What's a topic you are interested in?" Then I show them how to search google for that topic, they see 10,000 pages about other people who collect Estonian muffin tins (or whatever), and they are hooked! Likewise, if they just want to e-mail Aunt Mabel and play a card game, that's fine. They can learn about other programs later, if and when they want to.

    * Do a little bit at a time. Have a weekly lesson for an hour, not a daily one. If you go too fast, they lose their confidence about getting the hang of it.

    * Don't tell them too much. (I often fail when it comes to this rule.) If there are three ways to launch an application, don't teach them all three. One is enough. Use menu choices instead of Command-key (or Alt-key) combinations.

    * If you know what they'll want to do with their computer, a little advance preparation can pay off. Make aliases, dock items, or shortcuts for the applications they will use, ahead of time and when they aren't watching, so they don't think they have to understand what you are doing. Hide applications they won't use. Set their preferences suitably, such as turning off some of the million toolbar icons before they use MS Word.

    * Test printing and Internet connections ahead of time. You don't want to be diagnosing system setup problems during lesson 1. If you do, you'll have to turn into a wizard and scare the poor mortals!
  16. winwintoo macrumors 6502

    Nov 26, 2003
    This point is very important. When teaching my Mom, I do the technical stuff and my sister does the hands on teaching. Mom doesn't know (nor does she need to know) that Sis calls me to find out how to do things.

    Mom is intimidated by what I know, but she's comfortable with Sis.

    Take care, m
  17. rdowns macrumors Penryn


    Jul 11, 2003
    Re: Never too old to learn computing

    My mom (I can't bring to think of her as a senior, she's only 62) is notorious for being a very late adopter of technology. Took her 10 years to discover that taping her soaps and FF through the commercials was the way to go. Took her 5 years before she's even use the microwave I bought her. Etc.

    She's moving over an hour away from my niece and nephew and now won't see them 2 or 3 times a week. Had her over for dinner and called my brother to hook up his iSight. Sat my mom down to video chat with her grandchildren. She's now promised me to teach her how to use her iMac and will upgrade to one capable of iChatAV and an iSight when she moves in March. Man, I love that woman.
  18. 7on macrumors 601


    Nov 9, 2003
    Dress Rosa
    A big problem I've noticed that people do is that they don't read the dialog boxes. Especially on Windows machines because it could really screw up the computer then. I've been teaching my Mom for a while but a couple of weeks ago when she had to ask me "Should I have Kodak EasyShare be the default to open images in?" I replied, "I don't know, do you want all pictures to open with that Kodak program?" Which identifies another problem, don't get frustrated with the student when something breaks because they'll never be able to make decisions themself.

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