Wow, I’m bossy lately. Here’s another bossy post telling you what to do!
My older neighbor’s children got her a notebook after a pretty serious medical issue, so she could keep in touch by email. They figured she would like to footle around on the Internet as well.
She has never used a computer before. Ever.
The poor lady is too nice to tell her kids she DOES. NOT. WANT. So she is losing her mind trying to use the thing. Guess who gets to help?
Anyone with parents or grandparents in this pickle knows exactly what I’m talking about. I’m no expert, but as a writer who also works in an office, I can get around minor issues with little trouble. In no particular order, here are some things to keep in mind.
#4—Never assume they know anything at all.
Listen to the complaint; don’t assume you know what Grandpa is asking. Have him show you what he was doing when a problem occurred. He can likely do that instead of tell you since he doesn’t know what that little arrow-shaped thing is called yet.
Not everyone is a natural instructor. Listening goes a long way, as does patience. It’s difficult to teach someone skills that come easily to you. Once you learn all the little things about operating a computer, they become intuitive. For a person who doesn’t even know how to turn the machine on and off, explaining them is like speaking Swahili to an Eskimo.
#3—Remember that they are afraid.
Older people especially see a computer as an expensive, complicated machine. They are terrified they will irreparably damage it. Also, learning something new as an adult is scary enough when you’re 25; when you’re 75, it’s even more so.
Encourage Auntie Myrtle to explore the computer with you there. Let her mash all the buttons she likes, play with the cursor, open and close programs, etc. Tell her there’s little she can do to break it. She won’t believe that, but tell her anyway. Walk her through some tutorials so she can get a feel for them and can ask you for help if she needs to.
#2—Write it down.
Look online for computer tutorials. I found a good one (link at the bottom). The Dummies series of books is awesome too. Check reviews before purchasing anything. Also, check your local library or college for free computer classes for adults and seniors.
There are software tutorials on disc, but they can be expensive, and some have dozens of complaints against them (I’m talking to you, Video Professor). Go over sites/books with your newbie and bookmark things they will probably refer to often.
If you can’t find a good tutorial, make it. A well-written tutorial can be a huge help. Newbies often feel stupid, but if you give them a way to help themselves, it empowers them.
#1—Keep in mind that Rome wasn’t built in a day.
It takes time to learn anything new, and computers, even with incredibly easy GUIs that a five-year-old can navigate, are no exception. No one can get it all in one day. Your newbie may be frustrated because everyone else seems to know all this.
Reassure your newbie that no one else learned it overnight either. The only reason I know what I know is I’ve been messing with the thing since the mid-90s. Many, many people started earlier than I did and they don’t even know everything.
Since the advent of user-friendly interfaces, much of the programming crap an older person may remember about early computers is already done by the time it lands on your desk. It truly is plug-and-play, right out of the box.
NEVER LET YOUR NEWBIE GO SHOPPING FOR A COMPUTER WITHOUT YOU!
If Mrs. Roubidoux next door says she’d like to get a laptop, take her to the store to try some out. Park your butt right near her and fend off warranty upsells, optimization bullhockey and $450 cable scams. It’s possible to get a machine without the crap (probably not at Best Buy, however). If you have to, you can order it online for her.
Once you get your newbie up and running, then you can get back to your writing. Here are some links to help you.
How to Help Someone Use a Computer
How to Teach Someone to Use a Computer
This tutorial below looks awesome, but my newbie might not be ready for this yet. She can’t navigate web pages very well. Once she can, I plan to give her this link.
Free Computer Training at GCFLearnfree.org