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Older adults didn’t grow up with computers and the Internet. Whereas today’s teenager or young adult has experienced computers since birth and early childhood, the computer and the web are relatively new inventions for older adults. For this reason, teaching seniors how to use a computer and navigate the web requires a comprehensive approach.
Computer Skills: Children vs. Seniors
If you’ve ever watched a room full of children interact with computers, you’ve noticed that they jump to the task. They are many steps ahead of you and do not hesitate to push the keyboard buttons and move the mouse. This is in direct contrast to older adults who constantly ask, “Is it okay if I click on this?”
Children are fearless in regards to computers because they do not realize the consequences. Adults, on the other hand, are afraid that they will cause some kind of damage or create a problem they don’t know how to fix.
Breaking Things Down
When teaching adults how to use a computer, break down all steps to their smallest components. Don’t take for granted that they will know the meaning of “right-click.” Explain how to use a mouse and the difference between right- and left-clicking. Computer terminology such as “desktop” and “tool bar” should also be explained.
Repetition is Key
Adults often need to practice their computer skills repeatedly before the steps become second nature. Instruct the adult(s) you’re teaching to take notes. Provide screen shots of computer images so that when they are going through the steps without you present, they have visual tools to guide the way.