We use computers every day of our lives for work, home and pleasure. We check email, research and shop on the web, and use Skype video chat with friends and relatives who are not close enough to visit. Mainstream computer users have either grown up with technology or learned to integrate it into their lives. Older people, however, may find it physically and emotionally difficult to use computers. It often has nothing to do with their mental acumen. It’s often problems using antiquated technology or modern computers that are becoming more portable and less user-friendly.
In an effort to help enrich the lives of older people who feel disconnected from the Internet, we are providing these tips that have worked for us. Obviously, all of these tips may not apply to everyone, but overall they will help for the majority of older people.
Change Their Attitude About Using Computers
We find the number one issue with older people who refuse to use computers is that they were introduced to computing back when the Internet was slow, monitors had low resolution and Operating Systems were taylored for businesses. One of the first things we recommend is to get a new computer (not a hand me down after you upgrade) with Windows 7. Computers are cheap, so there’s no real excuse anymore to give someone a Windows XP computer with 512 MBs of RAM and a dial up modem. We like Dell or HP desktop computers. You can use the information in this article to configure them before you purchase.
If a person has had to endure the frustrations of waiting for a program to load or the Internet to connect and download basic email, then it’s likely they will need to be re-introduced to computing with a new PC and high-speed Internet.
It’s All About The Setup
Here are a few things you should address to make computing easier for older people:
- Buy a larger monitor.
- Buy a high-contrast keyboard with larger keys.
- Set the default theme to a high-contrast theme.
- Set the monitor to display larger icons.
- Set the default mouse pointer to large.
- If using a laptop, buy an external mouse and keyboard.
Larger Monitor – Because we will be increasing the icon size, we still want them to have a large Desktop area so they do not have to scroll as much. We recommend at least a 21″ computer monitor. But if you can go to 24″ that would be even better. It all really depends on their workspace. These monitors are a lot less expensive than they have been in the past.
Large Keyboard – We really like the Maxell Full Size Keyboard with Large Print Letters. The keys are twice the size of most standard keyboards and it also has programmable hot-keys for Internet, email, etc. Older people will typically become frustrated trying to see and type on a standard keyboard.
High-Contrast Theme – We have gotten a lot of feedback from older people and the majority of them prefer to use the high-contrast themes in Windows. To change your theme in Windows 7, right-click the Desktop and click Personalize. Under the My Themes section, scroll down to the Basic Themes and choose one of these and test it out. High-Contrast #1 is a good choice.
As you can see above, the theme even changes the background of websites.
Larger Icons and Type – We find the magnifying glass utility clunky and would rather see users adjust the size of text and icons. To do this in Windows 7, go to the Control Panel and click on Appearance and Personalization. Under Display, select “Make text and other items larger and smaller.” If you have a larger monitor, set it to 150 percent.
Large Mouse Icon – You can even adjust the size of the mouse pointer tip. This will make it easier for them to locate the pointer on the screen. To do this, open the Ease of Access Center in the Control Panel, and then scroll down and select “Make the mouse easier to use. ” Choose the size and contract option that works best for them.
External Keyboard and Mouse For Laptop – If the person you are trying to help is using a laptop (not recommended), they should be using an external keyboard and mouse. Laptop track pads are often very difficult to move, click and scroll. Plug in a USB Wireless Mouse and Keyboard. While we prefer the Maxell keyboard above for desktops, we like the Microsoft wireless mouse and keyboard for laptops. Setup is easy and the dongle that goes into the USB port is extremely small and less-likely to get damaged when moved.
Elderly Computing Concluded
So as you know, there is a vast Internet world out there for your loved ones to explore. We cannot stress how important it is to make the upgrades necessary to make the experience enjoyable for them. It’s too easy to become frustrated. Having a fast computer, and a larger monitor and keyboard, will make learning and using enjoyable. You can refer to other articles on our site to find new ways to setup a computer or configure it for ease of use. Or feel free to let us know any tips you recommend to make computing easier for older people.