When it comes to learning how to use a computer, senior citizens tend to harbor a bit of apprehension. To many, learning the technology is intimidating and seems like an insurmountable task. The key is to patiently break down the information into smaller, easy to digest chunks. In addition, showing them practical ways that computers can make their lives easier is a good way to break down any misconceptions they may have. With the right method of instruction, you can have your elderly pupils technologically up to speed with ease.
Resolve to be patient. Senior citizens learn at their own pace, and often their memory and retention skills aren't what they used to be. Even if this isn't the case, they may have a short fuse when it comes to their learning curve and may become easily frustrated. You must not get flustered with the possibility of constant repetition, as your frustration will only compound matters and make it that much harder for them to learn.
Show them how computers can enhance their day-to-day life. Presumably, they already have at least a fledgling interest in the technology, but providing extra incentive will help them during times of frustration. Much depends on the person and his or her interests, but a few general examples include recipe information, golf tips and more efficient communication with family members.
Learn their technological background. With some, you may be starting from square one. Others, however, may have at least minimal experience with older computers. For example, if your student retired in the early 1980s, he may have a residual desktop computer knowledge you can work from.
Cover the basics first. You don't want to insult anyone's intelligence or disrespectfully condescend, but as a rule of thumb, nothing is too basic to teach. Familiarize them with the hardware, the power buttons and basic external features, such as where to plug on the monitor and mouse.
Ascertain what they want to primarily use the computer for, and teach around that centerpiece. For instance, if surfing the internet is the allure, then once the computer is on, show them how to log on and search the web. Or, if address or information storage is what they're looking for, start your instruction with how to manage documents and files. The point is to work with their big-picture goal first in order to keep their interest piqued.
Dave Stanley has covered sports, music and hard news since 2000. He has been published on CBSSports.com and various other websites. Stanley is also a feature writer for "WhatsUp!" magazine in Bellingham, Wash. He studied journalism at the University of Memphis.
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