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Making Friends with Your Computer

Elderly woman on the computer
More and more seniors are discovering the benefits of staying connected through technology.

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More seniors are becoming intrigued with internet technology and social networking tools such as Facebook. However, some older adults struggle with basic computer skills. Most communities have a variety of resources that can help seniors get connected and ensure they have the assistance they need to stay safe and independent at home.

Q. My children bought me a computer for Christmas so they can "talk" to me every day by e-mail and Facebook. They also suggested I start doing some of my shopping online. In my 78 years, I've never used anything like this before, and I don't have a clue what to do. Where can I go for help?

You shouldn't feel alone. According to a survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, as of December 2009, 38 percent of U.S. adults ages 65 and older go online, a significantly lower rate of internet adoption than the general population (74 percent) and even the next-oldest group (70 percent of adults ages 50-64 years old go online).

In addition, just 26 percent of U.S. adults ages 65 and older have home broadband access, compared with 56 percent of adults ages 50-64 years old (and 60 percent of all adults).

At the same time, more and more seniors are discovering the benefits of staying connected through technology. Social networking among internet users ages 50 and older nearly doubled – from 22 percent in April 2009 to 42 percent in May 2010, according to Pew.

Various places in your community should be able to help you learn how to use a computer and go online. First, ask someone who knows how to use the computer – perhaps the family member who gave you the computer – to log on to

SeniorNet, a non-profit organization of computer-using adults over 50, offers about 200 Learning Centers managed primarily by senior volunteers at senior centers, community centers, public libraries, schools and colleges, and clinics and hospitals. For more information about the centers or to find the nearest one to you, ask your family to log on to

Here's another resource: Experience Senior Power at teaches older adults basic and intermediate computer skills, using an easy step-by-step tutorial.

Does your area have a community college? If so, many offer computer classes geared toward seniors. If there's no community college in your area, why not try calling the local high school computer department and asking if they know of classes for seniors in your area. If nothing else, perhaps a high school student would be willing to tutor you.

Or consider calling a company like Home Instead®, which hires CAREGiversSM to assist seniors in their homes with non-medical tasks. A CAREGiver could help you find someone to assist you with the computer as well as offering support with day-to-day activities such as meal preparation and light housekeeping.

For more information about the Pew Internet study, log on to

Last revised: May 21, 2011

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. August 6, 2015 at 3:20 pm | Posted by Pat Valente

    I use the Internet well but cannot afford to have service at home due to unemployment. I live alone but have been unemployed for three years, now at age 59. In my situation, the Internet access on Wi-Fi is between 9:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday - Friday and 10:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Saturday. Sundays are more limited hours. I may also use the local library during open hours. Major holidays means no Internet access for me. Are there any senior discount services for Internet service from home? Thank you. Pat San Francisco area in California


    • August 7, 2015 at 9:11 am | Posted by Cat Koehler

      Pat, you may want to call your internet provider and ask what programs they have available. You may be surprised to find they have several ways to help!


  2. August 6, 2015 at 12:05 pm | Posted by Jody Schreiber

    I have just barely enough knowledge of the Internet to be "dangerous". I think a part of me is scared or who know what reasons, but I really would like to have a better knowledge and be able to learn more. A very good friend (with an unbelievable knowledge of computers and Internet just ran a Google search on a person living 64 years ago, with a full biography. Now I want to know more!! I signed up a long time ago with a local Comm. College, paid 40.00, but the teacher never showed up. I elected to get money back and never tried again! The CC stopped offering classes for Seniors and the local library is not very good either. So I gave up and just got a very basic knowledge of my computer, but want more instruction!


  3. July 8, 2014 at 12:02 pm | Posted by Russell B

    Over the years that I have worked selling computers, I have talked with many seniors who have received or bought a computer and do not use it because they have not received very much training. Many times the training is a one day course or a family member shows them how to use it one time and that is all the training they get. Some of the trainings I have seen have been on older systems that do not match the computer the senior has, and this can lead to confusion. There is more to training someone to use a computer than turning it on and getting to the web browser or program the person wants to use. Training the senior on a computer that has the same operating system is very important. A senior may need more individualized training, (on their own computer,) than is being offered in the area that they live in. This can be a very time consuming activity for a caregiver who has many other activities to perform. A person who is known to the caregiver, and who is both well versed on computers, and working with seniors can be a good source of help for seniors. They may only need to visit the senior for a short time once or twice a week for several sessions to bring the seniors confidence level up.


  4. November 1, 2011 at 4:43 am | Posted by swarovski uk

    you find someone to assist you with the computer as well as offering support with day-to-day activities such as meal preparation and light housekeeping.


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