How to help elderly to use computers

Watch our video guide to getting your parent on-line

1)  Understand why and how they want to learn

To help older people get started, it’s essential to know why they want to learn about digital technology, what they want to use it for and what’s prevented them from doing so in the past. That way you can tailor what and how you teach them

The reasons for learning may be out of simple of curiosity, the need to be challenged, or to gain confidence, so they can keep up with their friends or family

Over 6.5 million people aged over 55 have never used the internet* and there could be many reasons why that is. They could be fearful of it, think they’re too old to learn something new, perhaps it’s too expensive or they just don’t see the point. It’s important to understand and address their concerns as early as possible.

2)    Help with the technical set up

When you’re helping an older person to use computers, the internet or other mobile technology, there are some technical considerations to think about

Look around for cost-effective broadband and phone packages, websites like can help you find the best deal

Maybe a tablet, such as an iPad, is a better alternative? If they want to use Skype, they’ll need a web cam facility (this is already incorporated in an iPad, but not in all PCs)

It really helps older learners if their computer or tablet is correctly set-up for their use and they see the same set-up every time they open a browser.  Rearranging their desktop can help with this. For some learners a simplified system might be more appropriate and organisations like SimplyUnite, Alex and Eldy can help

For people who struggle with a standard mouse, a trackball can help as it avoids the need to hold a mouse still and click at the same time. You can find some on the AbilityNet website

There are different types of keyboard available too for those who struggle with the standard one, but you can also improve the existing keyboard. For example, Filter Keys is a way of slowing down the keyboard to help people who have a tremor and hold the keys down too long

3)    Find out what interests them

To really enthuse the older person to learn about computers and the internet, find out more about them and what hobbies and interests they have. This can also give you a foundation to base any teaching around

At Digital Unite we’ve been helping older people to get online for over 16 years and in our experience the following are some of the most popular activities:

4)    Help them overcome their fears

Some of the biggest barriers to digital learning for older people are:

  • They might break the computer – show them just how robust the equipment can be and how to overcome certain technical issues such as rebooting the system
  • Online safety – as with anything care does need to be taken when sharing details over the internet and there are guides available to help with this
  • They won’t know how to do it – if you keep it simple, relevant and engaging, your older friend or family member will soon know that they can have their own digital adventure

Watch our video about the best iPad apps for the elderly

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*ONS Internet Access Quarterly Update 2012

We offer a great at home computer training service. For details, call now on 03333 441584

To take advantage of this great at home service, call now on 03333 441584. Lessons costs £40 per hour.

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Digital Unite

Digital Unite is one of the UK’s leading providers of digital skills learning. They provide a range of resources and services to support people on their digital journey, from the complete beginner to those helping others to get online:

For more information visit or call 0800 228 9272

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