12 Tips for Teaching Basic Computer Skills to Seniors

Basic computer skills for seniors

Learning basic computer skills can help seniors spend a quality post-retirement life. Computer skills enable older adults to perform basic tasks like sending an email, keeping in touch with family and friends and remaining healthy, informed and entertained.

These basic skills are more important for seniors who wish to live independently and age at home.  

So, what are the basic computer skills for seniors and what it takes to teach them to older adults?

What are Basic Computer Skills for Seniors to Learn?

It depends on the seniors if they have any prior knowledge of computers or not. For an older adult with no computer background, you can start with:

  • Introducing computer hardware components: mouse, keyboard, earphone jack, camera.
  • Introduce basic applications (word processor, internet browser) and data storage concepts (folders and files)
  • Types of files: documents, PDFs (basic functions like opening, closing, saving and printing a document)
  • Basic internet stuff like browsing, email (sign in, sending and receiving an email)
  • Creating documents using a word processor like Microsoft Word.

It depends on the student’s priority and the teacher’s understanding of what is better to teach first. In my opinion, it is important to teach the use of the internet in the beginning.

Once seniors know how to use the internet and navigate the web, they can access tons of online resources and learn beginner’s skills like the use of social media networks or accessing online news and weather reports.

Read More: 10 Websites For Boomers and Seniors

Tips For Teaching Basic Computer Skills to Seniors

Here are some of the tips for teaching basic computer skills to seniors and making learning time fun and easy.

1. Highlight the Benefits of Basic Computer Skills for Seniors

Seniors have to be convinced that learning computer skills will bring many benefits to them before they put in the effort. Let them know how they won’t have to rely on others to print a document or send an email if they have basic computer knowledge.

Show them how computers can make daily life activities, like paying bills online, easy and convenient. How they can use the computer to keep in touch with their old school friends and family through social media and follow what they are doing.

They can use computers to listen to audio books, podcasts and connect with other older adults through online forums.

2. Make the Computer Senior-Friendly Before Starting

It can be overwhelming for older adults at the start but you can make their learning experience easier. Start by adjusting font size, brightness and color settings to improve readability. Adjust audio settings for the hearing impaired. Some fonts are more readable for the elderly.

Ask them what is easy on their eyes by showing different font options. You can use senior-friendly keyboards if you have a desktop computer.

3. Know Your Student’s Interests

Teaching computer skills to seniors will be easy if you know their interests and make the whole process fun and enjoyable. Building relationship with students establishes a positive learning environment. Ask questions like what they are looking forward to most after learning the computer.

Observe what they enjoy doing on the computer. Introduce some basic computer games at the beginning so they have fun and get familiar with how a computer works. These things will make your class time fun and seniors will look forward to the class.   

4. Encourage Seniors to Take Notes or Provide Handouts

It is only natural for older adults to not remember the information as well as they used to, as they age. Forgetfulness and memory loss can be a normal part of aging. Encourage seniors to take notes as they learn or provide handouts.

They can always refer back to these notes for instructions if they forget anything. You can provide them with brief handouts that they can use while they practice in their own time. It is also helpful to keep a written record of passwords etc.   

5. Take it Slow – Avoid Information Overload

Seniors can feel overwhelmed at the start as it takes time for older adults to learn new things. Aging has its effect on the brain, so go slow at the start.

Teach at the pace that they can learn, not at the pace that you can teach. It will take time at the start but their abilities to learn will improve over time. It is important to know why seniors struggle with technology to help you teach them better.

6. Encourage Them to Ask Questions

Tell them it is okay to be repetitive and encourage them to ask questions along the way. Let them know that they can come back to you for help. Asking questions is a major part of learning.

7. Boost Student’s Confidence

Praise and acknowledge improvements during learning. Show confidence in their skills and motivate them. Tell them simple things like they are showing great progress and they can do it. Celebrating small achievements will boost student’s confidence.

8. Avoid Jargon

Keep instructions simple and avoid using technical jargon when teaching the elderly. Keep in mind that you are teaching basic computer skills to seniors, not advanced ones. Assume they have no prior knowledge of computers and are not familiar with technical terms.

It is a misconception that seniors hate technology. Oder adults are embracing technology at a rapid pace but they need some help to get started as not all modern tech is senior friendly.

9. Have Patience – Don’t Panic

Have realistic expectations from your students. You may have to repeat concepts or steps several times before your students understand them. Let them do things themselves.

They will try and may fail a few times before getting things done. Students feel a sense of accomplishment after they do things themselves.  It is like teaching a child to ride a bicycle.

10. Address Safety and Privacy Concerns

According to a survey by AARP, 85% of internet users of ages 50 to 64 are concerned about privacy and security. This is because seniors lose billions of dollars online every year. Teach them the basics of internet safety like never sharing personal information online and never downloading an attachment from an email from a stranger. Install antivirus software on the computer that they use.

Tell them about common online scams targeting seniors like “free gifts and prizes” and sudden popups claiming that your computer is infected by virus and that clicking a link will clean your computer.  Basic safety tips are necessary for seniors to remain safe online.

11. Provide Them with Free Resources to Learn

There are many online courses and guides to teach basic computer skills for seniors. You can minimize your workload once they know how to use these online resources. You will have to help them at the start by showing them how they can access these materials.

12. Provide Them Books

Some seniors prefer books over courses or online tutorials. There are plenty of books for teaching computer skills to seniors. You can get these books for your parents or loved ones and minimize your workload.

Our top picks in the books section that cover basic computer skills for seniors include:

These books will be very helpful when teaching basic computer skills to seniors.


Senior citizens tend to have a fear of technology but you can convince them that there is a lot of value in learning computers and technology in general. Show them how technology can help them in daily life tasks and keep them connected, entertained and informed.

By learning the basics of computers, seniors do not have to rely on others for basic computer tasks and many aspects of their lives will improve.

Related Post: A Guide on How to Use a Smartphone for Seniors

1 thought on “12 Tips for Teaching Basic Computer Skills to Seniors”

  1. I do not consider myself computer illiterate. However, the changing times of my age and computer activity seems to interfere with each other. I find it hard to put in the proper question to retrieve the information I’m looking for.

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