5 Tips to Know When You Assist a Senior in Using a Computer

When you are a pro, it’s easy to forget what it feels like to be a beginner with computers. It’s even harder if you are older and your encounters with a computer lead to constant frustration. If you have somebody who is a senior and is just making his or her first steps with computers, here are five important things to have in mind when you assist them.

Note: We do understand that there are many seniors out there who are computer literate, and some are even proficient at using computers. For this article we are referring to seniors who have little or no knowledge of computers at all.

1. Be Patient and Tactful

The first important thing to bear in mind at all times when assisting a senior in using a computer is to be patient. Don’t get annoyed by questions you think are stupid and never a senior their question is stupid. Be prepared to not only explain everything very simply but also to repeat as many times as necessary. If you can’t do this, maybe it’s not a good idea for you to assist a newbie, not to mention a senior, in his or her first steps in the world of computers.

2. Be Realistic


You also need to be realistic in your expectations. When you think of a task to teach your senior, always consider if the task is easy or easy for you only. For instance, for you, using an email is super easy, or cut, copy, and paste is a piece-of-cake process, but for a beginner all these tasks can be difficult. In some cases a senior simply needs more time and repetition to master them, but in other cases they are way out of their league, so no matter how well you teach these tasks, you may get nowhere.

3. Don’t Throw Your Senior into Difficult or Important Tasks

One very common mistake when teaching a beginner, especially a senior, is to push them into tasks that are either too difficult, too important, or both. For instance, online banking is something most of us use on a daily basis, but for a senior beginner, this is not a suitable task. First, there are many steps involved in making a transaction. Secondly, the risks of losing money by accident aren’t to be neglected. This is why it makes sense to leave such difficult and important tasks for later, when your senior isn’t a newbie anymore. In the meantime it’s best to handle banking for them.

4. Teach Them Only What They Need

In addition to teaching a senior difficult concepts, another common mistake when assisting a senior with computers is to teach them things they don’t need. For instance, if they can communicate with you via Skype or Facebook, there is no need to teach them how to use email. Of course, if they get it right away, it won’t blow their mind to know how to use an email account, but if they don’t, you are making a mistake to push.

5. Find Your Senior Good Books/Courses to Read/Attend

While it’s great to have a personal tutor always at your disposal, since you probably have other tasks to attend to in addition to answering questions your senior has, you can find them a good book for beginners to read on their own or enroll them in a course. In addition to freeing up you time, a course/book offers a more systematic approach to learning. It doesn’t have to be a course/book for seniors – a course/book for beginners should do.


Another benefit of a course/book is that when somebody they don’t know teaches them, this might make them more responsible and careful, while with you always at their disposal, they don’t always try to understand and remember what you explained – they can always ask you for help if they need it.

I hope these tips will help you in your attempts to help a senior with computers. It’s important to never forget that you need to be patient (yes, it’s easier said than done) and have realistic expectations about what your senior can achieve. After all, they are learning how to use a computer mostly for fun and for social inclusion, not because they need it for a job or because their life depends on it. So adjust your expectations accordingly.

Ada Ivanova
Ada Ivanova

I am a fulltime freelancer who loves technology. Linux and Web technologies are my main interests and two of the topics I most frequently write about.

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