6 Computer Basics Every Senior Should Know

6 Computer Basics Every Senior Should Know

Today’s senior citizens have adapted to an incredible number of technological advances during their lifetimes — and computers are no exception. Without computer knowledge, seniors lose access to news sites, social media, and community portals that keep them connected to their world. Completing a variety of basic everyday tasks ranging from downloading product manuals to making appointments at the doctor, DMV, and more can also be impossible without some computer know-how.

To help, we have listed six computer skills every senior citizen should have.

1. Mastering Basic Security

The right security protocols protect you while you’re online by preventing others from stealing information about you or infecting your computer with viruses. So, learning about basic cybersecurity is a must.

Some basic safety practices you should always follow include:

  • installing and using anti-virus software;
  • using the default security settings on your computer, and;
  • creating strong passwords for all your devices and accounts.

It’s important to be aware of online scammers who try to get money from unwitting victims too. Ask your police or sheriff’s department if they issue scam alerts and how you can sign up for them. You can also take a quiz about recognizing scams to learn more about tactics criminals use to target seniors.

2. Getting and Learning the Right Software

Among the most commonly used computer programs are Microsoft Word and Excel, which are included in the Microsoft Office software suite. Word is essential for seniors who want to write and save documents such as letters, journal entries, and recipes. Excel is a spreadsheet program that can be used to maintain a checking ledger and other financial documents.

Learn how to get around your new software with free tutorials for Office from Goodwill Community Foundation.

3. Creating, Saving, and Printing Documents

Once you’ve mastered Word, Excel, and other software programs, you’ll likely want to create and save documents.

On most computers and in most software programs, a file can be created by choosing “File” in the menu and then selecting “Create New” or a similar command. Most files can be saved by choosing “File” in the menu and then selecting “Save” or “Save As.”

If you have a printer, you should also be able to print documents. Doing so allows you to send letters and to print hard copies of online receipts for things such as car insurance and registration payments. On most computers, you can print a document or page by choosing “File” in the menu and then “Print.” From there, a pop-up window will lead you through prompts to print your document.

4. Making Video Calls

Many senior citizens use the Internet to connect with family members who live far away. Video calling provides a great way to see the people that you love without traveling.

To make a video call, you’ll need a computer, tablet, or smartphone with a camera. You’ll also need a video chat program such as FaceTime, Skype, or a Facebook account with video messaging enabled.

Making a video call is as easy as opening your calling program and following the on-screen prompts. Stay safe with video calling by never answering a call from a person or number that you don’t recognize.

5. Sharing Photos

Exchanging photos with your family is one of the most meaningful things you can use your computer to do. If you have a digital camera or a smartphone with a camera, you can put your photos on your computer to share with your contacts. There are tutorials on sharing photos privately to teach you how to share photos with friends and family without compromising your privacy.

Using a photo storage and sharing service is a great way to make larger albums available for family members. There are several reputable online photo storage services. One of the easiest to use is Flickr. Be sure to ask your friends and family members which photo services they use. Using the same service as your other family members can make sharing your photos a lot easier.

6. Finding Accessibility Features

Both Windows and Mac computers offer special accessibility features that are ideal for senior citizens who have vision or hearing problems. These features allow you to make the default font size on your computer larger, have a voice assistant read out information, and more. There are even special features for those who struggle to use a mouse or trackpad.

On a computer using Microsoft Windows, you can find the accessibility features by selecting the “Start” button, then select “Settings” and finally selecting “Ease of Access.” On a Mac computer, you can find the accessibility features by clicking on “System Preferences” in your toolbar and selecting “Accessibility.”


Using a computer or tablet to access the Internet is a must for today’s involved senior citizens. Thanks to a wealth of tutorials and support resources available online, there’s no reason to dread learning to use a computer. Boosting your knowledge of computers can even be a social activity.

In addition to checking out the tutorials mentioned here, check with your local library or senior center to see if they offer any public computer classes.