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Computers for Seniors - Learning How to Use a Computer

  • Published: 2009-05-25 (Revised/Updated 2010-07-03) : Author: TC Thorn
  • Synopsis: Modern computer technology is wonderful, and it is reassuring to know that seniors have not been left out.

Main Document

Seniors, contrary to popular opinion, are thrilled with modern technology and have embraced the world of computers enthusiastically.

There are no "simple" computers designed especially for seniors because the concept of computers isn't that difficult to begin with, it just seems that way.

Why a computer? The world is a pretty exciting place, so don't give me that "too old to learn new tricks" routine, or let me hear you mumbling under your breath about not being interested. Of course you are interested!

I want you to picture yourself (or your senior parent) learning about a wonderful new way to stay in touch with friends and relatives, or even make new friends. E-mailing and sending pictures are a great way to communicate, so even if that is the only thing that you learn how to do, it is a good thing.

It won't be long before that isn't enough and you will want to jump in with both feet when you discover that you can follow your stock options, keep informed, write in your journal, and continue to learn.

Don't forget that learning new things and having new experiences is a good way to exercise your brain. Studies say that older adults who use computers have fewer depressive symptoms than those who don't.

Kids seem to pop into the world already able to use a computer and you may feel a little intimidated when a six year is savvier than you are. There is no reason why you can't learn to enjoy a computer too. Colleges, community colleges, universities, neighborhood recreation centers and senior centers all offer classes designed especially for seniors. If you can't get out, you can find books and computer tutorials (right on your computer) that are geared for the senior audience. Just look up "computers for seniors" in your search engine.

Don't give up! If you love your computer but are finding it hard to see or manipulate the keys on your standard keyboard, help is available. A number of modifications are available to make your work easier and to keep you in touch with your family and friends.

Read Braille? There are specialized stickers and keyboard overlays that are imprinted in Braille so that a blind person can feel and type on the computer.

If your fingers lack precision and aren't as nimble as they used to be, you can find key locks and other modifications that enable you to press more than one key at a time. A key lock pivots onto a key that you want to hold down and holds it in place while you press another key at the same time. A sticky key works in much the same way if you have limited hand/arm control. If you press a sticky shift key, the computer waits for a second key to be pressed before acting on the initial stroke. Other options to investigate are one-handed keyboards, key guards, ergonomic keyboards and even on-screen keyboards where you just touch the letters on the screen.

Still nervous? For people with 20/20 vision using a standard sized computer screen is as easy as looking at your monitor. People with cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, and other eye conditions encounter a whole new set of problems. Once again, modern technology has not forgotten the folks who don't see quite as well as they used to.

People with low vision do not have to give up the joy and/or convenience of using their computers. Screen magnification products enlarge text and pictures to sizes more easily viewed. You can purchase free standing magnifiers that attach to the monitor or find software programs that will magnify the full screen.

Another type of software called Optical Character Recognition Software allows you to scan newspapers, recipes, bills, etc. where they can be stored, edited and used with screen magnification or screen reader programs.

Another option might be the use of speech synthesizer software. The screen reader reads the contents of all documents, as well as talking you through standard computer functions. The screen reading software helps you with writing, hearing what you are typing, reading back and editing your work, saving files, reading e-mails and web pages and more.

Isn't this exciting? You can also find Assistive Mouse Adapters that make it easier to control your mouse if you suffer from hand tremors or the Quick Glance for anyone who cannot use a hand operated mouse. There are easy to use Trackballs to make mouse control easier and Touch Pads that allow for mouse movement by just dragging your fingertip across a grid surface.

Modern technology is wonderful, and it is reassuring to know that seniors have not been left out. For new and exciting ideas for smart seniors, who want to keep on top of what is happening in their world, please check out my blog: lmb.typepad.com/smart_senior/

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